Panther earns S.C. Press Association awards

By: Panther Staff
Apr 26, 2017
PANTHER 2017 scpa winning entry for feature story

The Panther won two awards in the South Carolina Press Association Collegiate Division journalism excellence contest for 2016.

The honors were announced Friday during the SCPA Collegiate Division annual meeting held at Francis Marion University in Florence.

Sara E. Mobley earned second place in the Feature Story category for university’s with under 5,000 students for her Feb. 21, 2016, story titled “Kristin Paquette: a balance between college and parenting.”

The Panther won second place in the Page One Design category for an entry that featured the cover of the Nov. 3, 2016, special print edition on the presidential election of 2016.

During the Florence meeting, T. Michael Boddie of The Daily Gamecock at USC and Rebekah Davis of The Patriot at Francis Marion University took home top honors as the 2016 Collegiate Journalists of the Year.

Panther editors Princess Williams and Andres Waters were Collegiate Journalists of the Year for 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In addition to the awards presentation, there was a panel discussion on why real news matters, Florence Morning News journalists discussed multiplatform journalism and journalists with Waccamaw Publishers answered attendee questions about life after graduation.

PANTHER 2017 scpa front page winner

Following is the text of Sara Mobley's award-winning story from ...

Page 2 / JANUARY 21, 2016 / The Panther

Kristin Paquette: a balance between college and parenting


Kristin Paquette had expected to graduate in May 2016 from Claflin University, just like the rest of her class.

But unlike her peers, her college years were not spent just worrying about grades, looking for a job and making lasting memories with friends. Paquette had to take an extra year to graduate and spent the majority of her junior and senior years taking care of her now-10-month-old son, Tyler.

“Being a young mother forces you to grow up and mature and to see how the real world is instead of seeing it through the eyes of a naive college student,” Paquette said. “You have to be a mother, student, daughter, 24-7.”

Against all odds and the stereotypes of being a young mother, Paquette is back in school and plans on graduating with her bachelor’s degree in psychology in May 2017.

Despite Paquette being back in school, she still faces the stigma of being a young mother.

“They look at me like I made the biggest mistake of my life, “Paquette said. “It gets to me sometimes, but that’s life.”

A lot of people ask her how she could possibly finish school with a baby.

“Society will look at you and tell you, ‘You can’t do it, it’s too hard, to get an abortion or to give up the baby and get an adoption and it’s gonna suck.” Paquette said. “You have to find it within yourself and believe that this was for a reason and that you can get through a pregnancy and get through school.”

Paquette said she has learned not to care what others think, even though other people’s judgments of her still hurt. But stereotypes do not define people.

Before she got pregnant, Paquette said she and her mom used to watch MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” religiously. She admitted she used to think the girls on the show were stupid, and she didn’t understand why they didn’t use a condom.

Now she said she looks at them differently.

She understands.

“I know that mistakes happen in life, but God doesn’t make mistakes,” Paquette said. “I wish that those girls would have done something different and I wish that for myself, but I applaud them for being a parent and keeping the child and doing what they have to do.”

This school year has been a completely different experience for Paquette. She had to give up simple things like napping after class, going to campus social events, taking spring break trips, going to bars for her 21st birthday and being part of study groups at odd hours of the night.

“It just really changed, “Paquette said. “At the same time, it’s OK because you learn.”

Although Paquette encourages other young mothers to go to school while being a parent, she also encourages young women to wait before having children.

Tyler came as a surprise to Paquette during the summer into her junior year. She said she doesn’t for a second regret making the choice to be a mother and student, but it does leave her emotionally, physically and mentally drained all the time.

A typical day for Paquette starts around 7 a.m. She gets herself ready for school and then she gets Tyler ready for his grandparents, who baby sit him while she’s in class.

After dropping off Tyler, Paquette is off to her first class (she organized her schedule so that she could pack all of her classes into the morning).

Before 5 p.m., when Tyler comes from his grandparent’s house, Paquette must also squeeze in time to study, run errands and do homework.

After she picks up Tyler, she comes home to cook, bathe and put Tyler to sleep. Then Paquette studies into the wee hours of the night, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day.

Paquette plans on going to grad school once Tyler is older to receive her master’s degree. To other young mothers, she said it is important to know that there are other people like them in similar situations and that there are so many resources.

“Even if family and friends turn their back on them, they can do it,” Paquette said. “It might be harder, but they can do it.”


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