By Kailey Cota, SIPA student assistant
Posted March 24, 2022
SIPA recognized two individuals for their dedication to student media at the annual convention held March 4-6, 2022 in Columbia.
Christopher Chandler, principal at Nation Ford HS (Fort Mill, South Carolina) was award the Dr. Kay Phillips Administrator of the Year Award, which is given to someone who has been not only a strong supporter of the journalism program at their school but also someone who encourages publications to branch out beyond the school, lends a helping hand and supports student journalists.
Though this is his first year as principal and he’s still learning about the student publications, he took a leap of faith and rescinded the prior review policy that had been in place for the newspaper and literary magazine for several years.
“He has the courage and integrity to support student journalists and advisers at our school," Beth Swann, nominator and newsprint and literary magazine adviser, said. "He believes in the principles of scholastic journalism. We no longer live in the shadow of Hazelwood."
Not only has his move to repeal prior review restored trust in a previously fractured environment, but he provides a safe space for students to express themselves.
“He understands and supports artistic endeavors of students, including work that is inclusive of diverse opinions and experiences," Swann said. "Students feel more comfortable and freer to express themselves than they have in years past because he understands the importance of inclusion in our community."
A former high school journalist himself, Chandler understands that advisers are just as important to student publications as the student-journalist themselves. Because he saw how hard the adviser works, he approved an additional stipend to compensate for the extra hours she puts in.
“I am thrilled to work with a man I can trust and respect, a man who is a role model for students,” Swann said.
Also, Michaela Baker Taylor was honored with the Elizabeth B. Dickey Distinguished Service Award (DSA), which honors individuals who have contributed extraordinary amounts of time, talents and energy to SIPA.
Taylor is a long-time SIPA attendee who has been committed to SIPA and scholastic journalism since high school.
Though she has never been a student assistant or full-time employee, she returns every year, spending sleepless nights preparing the convention for students.
“When someone needed help, she provided it and always with a smile,” Karen Flowers, former SIPA director, said.
Selfless is the word SIPA director Leslie Dennis used to describe her. The drive and passion she approaches life with translate into her work with SIPA.
"Anything I need, Michaela anticipates before I ask," Dennis said. "She volunteers to work the convention each year, even though she knows the long hours. She comes to me with ideas with how we can tweak competitions or events. She is a wonderful sounding board for me and has become vital to a successful convention."
Her time in student media, on the SIPA board as a student officer and as Journalist of the Year propelled her into a full-time job as Visual Communications Coordinator at the College of Information and Communications.
Not only has SIPA advanced her career, but it also enriched her personal life. The awardee and her nominator, Collyn Taylor, went to the same high school, met through journalism, began dating and ultimately got married because of their extended time at SIPA.
“Even then, I saw the love she had for helping and it’s not subsided since then. She never misses a chance to help the organization that means so much to her,” Collyn, former SIPA student assistant and DSA recipient, said.
Michaela will get to rival her husband’s achievements by adding a second Distinguished Service Award to their home.