JEA names 4 Friends of Scholastic Journalism

JEA names 4 Friends of Scholastic Journalism

By Erinn Harris, MJE, JEA awards chair

Four individuals who have made significant contributions to scholastic journalism will be honored as Friends of Scholastic Journalism this fall. They will be formally recognized during the Fall JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention.

The award recipients are Jeanne Acton, Carlos Armenta, Jim Dumont and Mike Taylor, CJE.

Jeanne Acton

Jeanne Acton

“Friends take care of things when we need it most, and friends make us all better through encouragement, trust or just the perfect nudge when we need a good kick in the rear,” JEA President Sarah Nichols, MJE, said. “Those are a handful of the ways Jeanne Acton has made her mark on scholastic journalism during her time with UIL/ILPC.”

Wrapping up an incredible career as the Texas University Interscholastic League journalism director and director of the Interscholastic League Press Conference, Acton also serves NSPA as the board’s president.

During her decade of teaching, she advised newspaper, broadcast and yearbook programs and coached softball at Lyndon Baines Johnson High School in Austin. After teaching, Acton worked as an assistant principal for three years.

In 2017, she won NSPA’s Pioneer Award and JEA’s Medal of Merit. 

Throughout her decorated career, Acton’s work ethic has set her apart, keeping Texas at the forefront of scholastic journalism. However, because she is truly a friend to scholastic journalism nationwide, we all get to benefit from her gifts. 

“Whether she’s sharing a personal story about her boys growing up or trying to help out young new advisers, Jeanne has a way of making you want to stay and listen,” JEA Vice President Valerie Kibler, MJE, said. “She’s not just a friend of scholastic journalism, she’s everyone’s friend. It’s high time JEA recognizes her significant contributions to our field.”

Carlos Armenta

Carlos Armenta

Student journalists have to jump any number of hurdles throughout the year in order to create authentic publications that tell the stories of their school communities. As more and more printers have closed over the years, finding a strong, reliable and honest printer is among them. 

When Bay Area student journalists begin their first print cycle, Carlos Armenta is there.

“Every fall, he makes himself available to talk to the editors of the publications to teach them how a newspaper goes from a ‘file’ to becoming a ‘newspaper,’” nominators Ellen Austin, MJE, and Paul Kandell said. “His patience and care in giving young journalists an overview of a completely new (to them) technology helps to establish the gravitas of what it means to bring a finished newspaper into existence.”

Armenta has spent more than three decades ensuring that words written by Bay Area student journalists actually become printed newspapers or news magazines. Beyond being a skilled professional at his craft, Armenta loves working with schools and with students to distribute news to school communities in a tangible form that all can access — so much so that he becomes a true presence in the production process.

“He emailed, texted, called and reminded on a daily basis as ‘press time’ got closer,” Austin said. “My editors became used to hearing me call out, ‘It’s Carlos! He wants to know if we’ll really be sending-to-press by 5 p.m.?’”

Despite the fact that the answer to that question was often, “No,” Armenta still sees his job as — in his own words — the “best job ever.”

Jim Dumont

Jim Dumont

“There is no easy way to begin a letter like this,” Kirkwood High School adviser Mitch Eden said. “You see, it should have been done when Jim Dumont was alive.”

Jim Dumont retired a colonel in the Marine Corps after 30 years of service. As a senior sales rep for Jostens Inc. in the yearbook division for the past 24 years, Dumont used his commitment to service to impact the lives of countless advisers and students. 

“At his height, he had nearly 150 Missouri schools that he would help at the drop of a hat,” Richland R-1 School adviser Kyle Carter, CJE, said. “Jim was always a phone call away with a hearty hello and was always glad to help either on the phone, or in person, in any way that he could.” 

On Sept. 7, 2021, Dumont lost his battle with COVID-19, but his dedication to his craft — helping high school journalists tell the stories of their schools — will continue. 

“He was one of those special people that God puts on Earth every now and then who knows exactly what their job is,” Carter said. “Jim’s job was helping people. It didn’t matter who, it didn’t matter when, it didn’t matter why — Jim was there to help.

“For 24 years, there was no one more dedicated to helping Missouri students and advisers than Jim.”

Mike Taylor, CJE

Mike Taylor, CJE

One of the most recognizable names in yearbook journalism, Mike Taylor, CJE, Walsworth’s yearbook specialist, has an effect on people.

“My students would squeal his name when he walked into my classroom to check on their progress with a theme or make suggestions to improve coverage or a layout,” nominator Lori Oglesbee said. “The bonus of a box or two of Krispy Kreme donuts never hurt, either.”

Taylor’s gifts go far beyond Krispy Kremes. He pushes staffs to achieve the impossible. He showcases the talent and expertise of others. He works extra hours to get a book just right. And he does it all because his greatest strength is connecting with people.

“Whether he is presenting at a workshop, making a school visit, recording a podcast or coaching on one of the hundreds of Zoom sessions he does with schools from coast-to-coast,” recommender Jim Jordan said, “Mike makes each adviser or staffer feel like they are the most important person in the world doing the most important job in the world — capturing the essence of one year at a school in the yearbook.”

Through coast-to-coast connections, Taylor increases his reputation for “epicness,” a term coined by Mansfield Legacy High School adviser Leland Mallett, CJE. “Obviously, epicness is not word,” Mallet said. “But ‘Friend of Journalism’ is a fitting title for Mike Taylor.”

Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, promoting professionalism, encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

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