Student Journalist of the Year shares stories of inspiration | News

Millie Rice stands by her mother when her South Carolina School Reporter of the Year award was announced.

As the top high school reporter in the state, Wando High School’s Millie Rice has her sights set on the national competition.

Rice, who is co-editor of Wando’s award-winning “Legend” yearbook, was named South Carolina School Journalist of the Year by the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association. She is now competing against the best journalists in the United States for the Journalism Education Association’s National Journalist of the Year competition. She will travel with Legend staff members to Los Angeles in April for the national conference to hear the results.

“Honestly, it’s just an incredible honor,” Rice said. “It’s an honor to be able to represent South Carolina State in this way.”

Rice added that it is “breathtaking” to be considered on the same level as other top journalists in the country.

The award is the highest honor a high school reporter can receive in the state. Rice is the seventh Wando student to win this honor in the history of the award. The elder is also the fifth warrior to receive this award in the last six years and the fourth student in the yearbook to achieve this recognition during this period.

Millie Rice

Millie Rice

“This is unprecedented dominance by any school for the award in SCSPA’s 53-year history of awarding it,” said yearbook adviser Phillip Caston. “Millie is one of the most awarded students in Wando yearbook history; she’s already made the top five, and more accolades are likely to follow.”

Many hours and dedication to the yearbook went into winning this award. Rice submitted an online portfolio that featured her best work, including writing, design and photography samples, as well as letters of recommendation and a personal essay.

Rice said her strengths lie in writing, the aspect she enjoys most about being on the yearbook staff. One story close to her heart is a profile she wrote about a Wando student who suddenly became paralyzed due to a staph infection. Rice captured the story of Sydney Fowler and her parents during the critical three days from the onset of numbness and pain to emergency surgery to remove a mass. Two years later, Fowler continues to use a wheelchair, but she has regained her chest strength through rehabilitation.

The story Rice wrote about Fowler fits with this year’s yearbook theme of “inner strength.” Rice said the yearbook editors chose the theme to share hard-hitting stories from the last two years of the pandemic. “I think people had a lot of time to reflect on themselves,” Rice said.

Another aspect of working on the directory that Rice enjoys is designing the pages. As a former section editor, Rice was responsible for designing the pages and found it to be perfect for her Type A personality since text and photos need to line up in a specific way.

Rice said it’s surreal that the yearbook is finished because time has passed so quickly this year. “It’s so crazy to scroll through and see all these finished pages,” Rice said. “It’s like how did it happen?”

Caston said working with Rice showed her strong work ethic and the high standards she sets for herself. “She’s never satisfied that she’s done enough and she’s always willing to take on the jobs that others try to avoid. That drive and tenacity has been the fuel that keeps Wando High School running our directory machine. She combines this effort with her incredible writing and design skills as well as the hands-on, exemplary mentorship she provides to all staff,” said Caston.

Rice can’t wait to see how her classmates react to the finished product. As for Rice’s plans after high school, she hopes to study criminal justice or criminology to prepare for a future career as a criminal justice attorney. Additionally, she wants to stay involved in writing or journalism in some capacity while in college.

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