S’Park Awards Honor Media Mentors

By Dan Verderosa, October 18, 2018
Park School recognizes high school teachers for igniting students’ passion for media.
A group of men and women holding glass awards

From left to right: S’Park Media Mentor Award winners Selam Bekele, Laura Donnelly, Matthew Binder, Kadesha Bonds, Brian Sweeney, Erin Sucher-O’Grady and C. Dow Tate.

(Photo by Stetson Doggett/Ithaca College)

The  Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College recognized seven outstanding media mentors from across the United States with S’Park Media Mentor Awards. The annual awards honor high school teachers and advisers who are committed to igniting a passion for media in their students.

The winners were invited to an award dinner and reception at the college. While on campus, they met the advisers and managers of the Park School’s own nationally acclaimed student media outlets and learned about the Park Scholar Program, which provides full-cost-of-attendance scholarships for communications students.

“The Park School is privileged to sponsor many great speakers and events, but the S’Park Media Mentor Awards program is my favorite,” said Diane Gayeski, dean of the Park School. “Each of our awardees inspires high school students to see media as powerful tools to shape the society that they will inherit, and they instill a culture of excellence in their cohorts. Over the years, the mentors have become a wonderful pipeline for some of our most talented students and we appreciate the opportunity to forge relationships with students who may not otherwise have heard of Ithaca College or thought that a Park School degree could be in their futures.”

This year’s recipients are:

Erin Sucher-O’Grady

Sucher-O’Grady is the adviser to The Globe, the student newspaper of Clayton High School in Clayton, Missouri. She is also the Missouri state director of the Journalism Education Association. Sucher-O’Grady was named a distinguished adviser by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2018 and Missouri teacher of the year by the JEA in 2016. Under her tutelage, The Globe has received several national awards. Her students were awarded the Brasler Prize — the scholastic equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize — in 2016 and 2017, and in 2015 won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for their coverage of protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brian Sweeney

Sweeney is a journalism and English teacher and adviser for The Classic, the student newspaper of Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, New York. The Classic’s coverage of calls for the resignation of Townsend Harris’ interim principal was the basis of stories in The New York Times, ABC News, CBS and Teen Vogue. Sweeny and his students received the 2017 Courage in Student Journalism Award from the Student Press Law Center.

Laura Donnelly

Donnelly is the founder and chief executive officer of Latinitas, a non-profit based in in El Paso and Austin, Texas, focused on empowering girls to innovate through media and technology. Through after-school clubs, camps, events, and publications and channels, Latinitas provides a space for girls to express themselves, develop their skills, learn about their culture, and discover their unique voice. Donnelly also manages Latinitas Magazine.

Kadesha Bonds

Bonds is a mass media and communications teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. She is part of the PBS Student Reporting Labs, where her students collaborate on various video projects, such as documentaries on issues and individuals in their communities. Her students have won awards in several national competitions, including the All-American High School Film Festival, C-SPAN StudentCam Documentary competition and the White House Student Film Festival.

Matthew Binder

Binder is a broadcasting and communications technology teacher in the Hempfield School District in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He supervises the production of student news programs, including a monthly show called “Hempfield Happenings.” In 2017, he worked with high school students from Hempfield and Russia on Disabilities Partnership TV, promoting awareness for those with disabilities. He is a semifinalist for the 2019 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year Award and an active meteorology consultant.

Selam Bekele

Bekele is a multimedia artist and a college adviser for the Ghetto Film School, an award-winning nonprofit that identifies young talent from local communities in Los Angeles and New York City and provides them with access, opportunities and resources to pursue creative careers in media. PBS recently profiled Bekele’s work in science fiction. She shares with youth her experience in social documentaries, commercial campaigns and experimental art installations.

C. Dow Tate

Tate is a journalism teacher and adviser for The Harbinger, the student newspaper of Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas. He co-authored three editions of “Scholastic Journalism,” which has served as a comprehensive text and guide for high school journalism students, teachers and advisers. Tate is a Dow Jones finalist for teacher of the year, a Kansas teacher of the year, was honored as a distinguished adviser by the Journalism Education Association, and won the Gold Key award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.