Melissa's Minute 7-20-17

Awarding hard work

First, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Advance-Monticellonian team for their second-place General Excellence award presented to them by the Arkansas Press Association. For a number of years, the Advance has been an award-winning publication, and I am proud to have been a part of their success the last few years.

Everyone loves to win awards. I have to say I have won my fair share of them. For me, it all started in my junior year in high school. I won my first awards during on-site competitions at the Arkansas High School Press Association’s conference in Little Rock. The next year, my success continued at the same conference and at the Southern Interscholastic Press Association conference. I can’t say I recall the names of every award I won, but they meant a great deal to me at the time.

For me, those awards affirmed that I was good enough to have a career as a journalist.

It would be a number of years later before I took home my first professional award from the Alabama Press Association in 2010. I had taken a photo of a Cub Scout racing his homemade boat in the Raingutter Regatta. I had been chasing an award for a number of years, and a photograph I’d given very little thought about at the time won. I was so proud, as of this award because I felt it somehow validated my career.

A few years later, I came to the Advance. For four years, I walked away with a handful of wards with my name on them, but I never expected to win. Every March we’d have to submit papers to the press association, and every March I doubted I’d win anything that year. When May would roll around, I was always surprised to have won something. It always amazes me that I actually won recognition for my work.

This year was the biggest surprise because I had no idea the Advance had submitted my work in the contest. I want to thank the Advance for submitting my work this year. I find it an honor for someone thinks an article I wrote is award-worthy. So, thank you Harold and Mr. Tom for submitting my work. Congratulations to the Advance staff for your hard work and dedication to getting the news out every week. It is harder work than one might think.  

As always, it’s an honor to have my work recognized, but the feeling is no longer the same. It’s not about validation anymore. It’s not awards I seek. Instead, my validation comes from my students. They impact me more than they will ever realize and more than I ever expected. During the school year, everything I do at work is for them.

 While they don’t realize all the work that goes into teaching them, the fact that they are learning is enough of a reward for me. Their success is my award, and it feels better than any other award I’ve ever received. I feel like if I can make the tiniest of a difference in my students’ lives, that’s all I need.

One thing is for sure: awards are not just handed out; they must be earned. This is something I work to teach my students and my own children. Success—whether it’s a press award or watching students succeed—takes hard work and dedication.

Melissa Cason is a former journalist and currently teaches high school English and Journalism. She can be reached at



The Advance-Monticellonian

Mailing Address:
PO Box 486
Monticello, AR 71657

Street Address:
314 Main Street
Monticello, AR 71655

Phone: 870-367-5325
Fax: 870-367-6612

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