HPS honored for Excellence in Communications

HPS honored for Excellence in Communications
Posted on 03/15/2021
jacob group

Hickory Public Schools

Honored for

Excellence in


The North Carolina School Public Relations Association (NCSPRA) and the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) recently honored Hickory Public Schools (HPS) with Blue Ribbon Awards for “Excellence in Communications.”

HPS Director of Communications, Beverly Snowden, received the awards on behalf of the district. The winning articles and digital designs, representing outstanding and effective communications, were written and created by Snowden.

Perhaps the most meaningful award, according to Snowden, was the recognition of “Excellence in Writing” for an article about Jacob Elliott, who is currently a senior at Hickory Career and Arts Magnet High School (HCAM).  The article is titled: “Jacob’s Story: I am more than what people see.”

“Jacob Elliott, the son of Jim and Mary Elliott, is very open about his life challenges with autism—and he wanted to share his story. He may have autism, but Jacob is actually very talented and gifted. He has been accepted to the theatre technology program at Western Carolina University. We are so proud of Jacob’s achievements and expect he will continue to experience great success in higher education and beyond,” said Snowden.

“Jacob is an excellent representative of Hickory Career and Arts Magnet High School (HCAM),” said Principal, Eric Puryear. “It’s been exciting to learn that one of our students has been recognized on a state and national level. Jacob has worked hard in the Performing Arts Academy at HCAM---while supporting our television production and other technology opportunities. We are thankful to Ms. Snowden for interviewing Jacob—sharing his story to help provide encouragement and hope to others. As a small high school with career academies, Jacob’s journey reflects multiple stories of success at HCAM,” said Puryear.

Jacob’s story was one of two HPS articles recognized on a national level with an Honorable Mention for “Excellence in Writing” from the National Schools Public Relations Association. Only 18 other school districts across the country were recognized in any level of this category and Hickory Public Schools is the only district in North Carolina to receive the national recognition.  “Jacob’s Story” also received state recognition with the Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence in Writing from the NC School Public Relations Association.

Several supporters of Jacob Elliott who were mentioned in the award-winning article, recently joined together to celebrate the national and state-wide success of “Jacob’s Story.”  Snowden chose to give the HPS awards to Jacob during the celebration.  Supporters who were mentioned in the article and who were able to attend include Eric Puryear, principal of HCAM, Jackie Finley, retired teacher from HCAM, Alison Willard, art teacher at Grandview Middle, Coach Todd Teague, football coach and teacher at Grandview Middle, Mary Chapin-Stamey and Donna Frye, who both taught Jacob at Cornerstone Christian Academy, and Mary Elliott, Jacob’s mother.

Other supporters who were included in the story but unable to attend (and sent their congratulations to Jacob), include: HCAM School Resource Officer, Anthony Calicutt, Raeanne Kummer, retired counselor from HCAM, Aaron Joplin, former principal at Grandview Middle, and Dr. Rigardy Munoz. In celebration and recognition of Jacob Elliott, special cupcakes were prepared showcasing edible “Blue Ribbons” with Jacob’s name placed in the center. “It was certainly a festive occasion for all,” said Principal Puryear.

In addition to the story about Jacob, Hickory Public Schools was recognized with the following communications awards:

  • National Honorable Mention (NSPRA) for Excellence in Writing: “Communications Counts for Hickory’s SROs” (an article about the service of the School Resource Officers/Hickory Police Department)
  • NC Blue Ribbon Award (NCSPRA) for Excellence in Image & Graphic Design: “HPS Principals Practice Safety” (digital campaign with HPS principals setting the tone for practicing safety in schools with COVID-19)
  • NC Blue Ribbon Award (NCSPRA) for Excellence in Image & Graphic Design: “Seniors Speak” (digital campaign during the first COVID-19 graduation to recognize seniors who led the way with service, character, grades, and goals.)

During the past ten years, while Snowden has served Hickory Public Schools, the district has been recognized with nearly 50 state and national awards for Excellence in Communications.

Ken Derksen, NCSPRA president, said the work of the award winners exemplifies the high standards and qualities members demonstrate in their daily school communications programs. “Blue Ribbon Awards are among the highest and most prestigious honors that a member of our organization can attain,” Derksen said. “I congratulate Hickory Public Schools for achieving this recognition as a Blue Ribbon Award winner and for the superior work being accomplished in the area of school communications and public relations.”


Photo credit:  photos by Natasha Stiles, HCAM CTE Teacher & CVCC Instructor

Celebration for national and state recognition of HPS winning article: “Jacob’s Story: I am more than what people see.”

Front (L-R): Beverly Snowden, Jacob Elliott, Jackie Finley; Back (L-R): Donna Frye, Mary Chapin-Stamey, Mary Elliott, Coach Teague, Alison Willard, and Eric Puryear