Sharplin, Westgate selected for MIPA staff

Yearbook and News Media Editor-in-Chiefs recognized for journalistic achievements

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Showing off her admission letter, senior yearbook Editor-in-Chief Alexis Sharplin celebrates being selected for MIPA’s journalism staff. “I was kind of shocked because I felt like I kind of rushed the whole thing in the end, but I was still happy about it anyway,” Sharplin said. Sharplin and fellow senior News Media Editor-in-Chief Kendall Westgate will learn if they earned top places in their categories later this year.

Justice Seay, Editor-in-Chief

Recognized at the state level for their work, senior Yearbook and News Media Editor-in-Chiefs Alexis Sharplin and Kendall Westgate were selected as members of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association’s (MIPA) journalism staff.

“I was super happy and excited when I found out,” Westgate said. “I messaged [News Media adviser Erica Kincannon] right away to tell her the news. I wasn’t really expecting to get it, since I know there are many other hard working journalists; so it honestly came as a huge shock.”

The entry process required applicants to submit: three letters of recommendation, a resume, a high school transcript, an essay and what both EICs named the most difficult part of the process: a self-curated website showcasing their works. The process took about nine hours, according to Sharplin.

“When I was making my website, I literally sat down in my bed and worked for 9 straight hours through the night until four in the morning, so it was surprisingly calming being able to work with no distractions or anything like that,” Sharplin said. “But around three in the morning I was ready to be done. The most challenging thing was trying to find all of my work from the past three years that I could include in my portfolio. I had to pull pdfs and take pictures of my old book and then crop and upload them all to get them on the website. I wanted to include as much as possible so I looked through everything like three times. I took inspiration for the website from past winners in the same category and based the things I included with some of the things they included.”

Applying for the MIPA state journalism staff is an involved process which requires seniors to put together their portfolios independently and due to the nature of how busy class is, they usually have to work on their own time, according to publications adviser Erica Kincannon.

“Since the process is so involved, we haven’t had students apply in several years. I was really proud of Alexis and Kendall for following through with the time consuming process and reflecting on their work,” Kincannon said. “I was even more proud to learn they both earned nominations to the state journalism staff. They’ve dedicated countless hours to produce quality publications for the students and community and are deserving of the recognition they’ve been afforded.”  

Although they’ve faced numerous challenges during their times on staff, including teaching new class members the ins and outs of journalism during a global pandemic, being selected for MIPA’s journalism staff prompted the girls to reflect on their News Media careers and the successes they’ve had along the way.

“I was really proud of some of the design work that I did this year,” Sharplin said. “I got to do the cover, the endsheets, and all the divider pages. I also like helping people out, so it was cool to plan things and work with other students to get the book done. If anyone had a question or needed help, I would try to get back to them and get them an answer right away.”

Though both EICs have now improved their journalistic skills and become comfortable leading staffs to create a variety of content, Westgate acknowledged she was also once a novice staffer anxious about acclimating to the unfamiliar class structure.

“My biggest achievement throughout newspaper has definitely been watching me grow as a person,” Westgate said. “I came into staff as a shy sophomore who dreaded getting interviews and knew nothing about design. I now interview loads of people and can whip up a design in an hour, which used to take me a couple days. I am proud looking back and seeing how far I’ve come. I owe it all to my parents and Mrs [Kincannon] for always pushing me to be the best journalist I can be.”

Not only has their involvement in the program taught them the ropes of writing and design, but leading teams of staff members has given them the valuable skills of communication and management.

“My people and social skills have greatly improved as well as my leadership skills,” Sharplin said. “I know that these are some skills that any person would need in life.”

More than a high school hobby, journalism impacted Sharplin and Westgate’s lives. Allowing them to acquire advantageous leadership and content creation skills, while simultaneously becoming an outlet for them to express ideas, the EICs will use their skills as they move on to the next phase of their educational careers.

“I plan on attending the university of Findlay to major in Equine Studies and minor in journalism,” Westgate said. “My dream job is writing for a horse magazine, so this helps pad my portfolio a lot more. This honor just really reassured me that journalism is definitely a good path for me to take since I’ve come so far.”

Though Sharplin is not planning a career in journalism, she recognizes the value of the business skills she gained throughout her time on staff.

“I got to build my team skills, because that’s something that’s going to come into play in a normal working environment, so it prepares me for a job and how to deal with people,” Sharplin said.

Following their nominations onto staff, Sharplin and Westgate will soon learn if they will advance to be named top performers in their categories.

“As their adviser, I know Alexis and Kendall have excelled in their high school journalism careers,” Kincannon said. “Whether they take top in their category or not doesn’t change the great legacies they’ll have left on the publications program.”