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Natalie Ripps recognized as SIPA Star

By Kailey Cota, SIPA assistant

Posted January 15, 2021

Throughout her high school career, our newest SIPA Star blossomed from a little caterpillar into a glorious butterfly.

When Natalie Ripps entered high school, she had zero journalistic experience.

“I feared speaking in front of the class, interviewing people on the spot and opening up my writing. For so long, these skills seemed like a goal so distant, [they were] unattainable,” Ripps said in a personal essay.

Over the years, she transformed from a scared student in Clarke Central High School’s Journalism 1 class to a sportswriter and ODYSSEY Media Group’s Variety Editor.

“I have presented in front of peers and strangers, conducted multiple interviews with students and adults and written multiple feature stories for the school,” Ripps said. “Much like the hungry caterpillar in the children’s book, I have taken on a new form that differs greatly from my initial starting point.”

SIPA Director Leslie Dennis has watched Ripps grow over the years.

“She can work on whatever platform and topic assigned. Whether it is a print/online story or literary-arts magazine spread, she tackles the assignment with full passion,” Dennis said.

Even though her road hasn’t always been smooth, Ripps has learned how to overcome her struggles.

“Hungry for success and satisfaction, I wanted to do it all. Soon, I was missing deadlines due to my inability to formulate the perfect words for the ‘perfect’ rough draft,” Ripps said. “Through effective communication, I recognized my mishaps and identified the ideal plan for my growth.”

Adviser David Rasgdale said that Ripps and her team worked together to produce a new staff handbook with revised norms, goals, values and operating procedures.

“With a new position, new staff, and a new outlook on her career as a leader, Natalie Ripps began senior year upbeat and ready to work,” Ragsdale said. “Additionally, her team has focused on representation and inclusivity within the pages of the magazine to capture the artists of her school more accurately.”

Ripps said she manages a staff of five students, and she mentored them throughout the year as they went through the same struggles as she found herself in previously.

“This year, I have gone so far outside of my comfort zone, I live in hopes of going a step further at every opportunity,” Ripps said. “I have acquired an entirely new set of skills, including designing on various software, column writing about issues important to me, presenting at multiple journalism conferences and more.”

SIPA Stars is a showcase series that spotlights individual students, celebrates their content, and exemplifies good Southern journalism at work in scholastic classrooms. 

An adviser or editor can recommend a student to be a SIPA Star through a short application process. We will create web and social media posts and letters to principals and local media outlets to identify and spotlight the student selected. 


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