Prestigious prize in hand, Tipton eager for opportunities ahead

May 17, 2016

Jaclyn Tipton plans to major in English – and she couldn’t be more excited about it. The Collegiate High School senior’s eyes light up and her smile shines when she talks about her love for English and the possibilities associated with earning an English degree.

Jaclyn Tipton

Tipton, who graduated with her associate in arts degree from Northwest Florida State College on May 7, is among 102 seniors who will graduate from Collegiate High School on May 20. The Crestview resident has attended CHS since 10th grade. Before that she went to Baker School, where her mom teaches, from elementary school through ninth grade.

She decided to make a change and enroll at Collegiate because she wanted to take advantage of the opportunities of being a CHS and NWF State College student.

“I felt like I needed to broaden my horizons,” she said, and it has proven to be the right decision for her educational and personal growth. “It gave me freedom to explore different things and mature on my own.”

Self-described as socially awkward in 10th grade, she remembers being amazed at how welcoming and friendly everyone was when she arrived on the Niceville Campus.

“It really brought me out of my shell,” she said.

This year, Tipton has blossomed. In April she was honored as the recipient of the Blackwater Review Editors’ Prize for Fiction. For a Collegiate High School student to win such a prestigious award in a rather competitive pool is remarkable.

Just last year, Tipton had submitted one piece of writing to Blackwater Review – the college’s annual journal of literature and art – and it was not chosen to be published. She recently found it and re-read it.

“It was really bad,” she said, reflecting on how much her writing has progressed in the past year.

This year she submitted several pieces, and one was selected for publication – and it was that story the judges felt stood out the most among all of the fiction selections in this year’s journal.

Titled “The Story that Could Have Been,” it’s about a girl grieving the suicide of her best friend and the anger and other emotions overwhelming her. Tipton describes the story, which is based on a near-tragedy in her own life, as “pretty heavy.”

Tipton was among the student writers and poets chosen to read their work aloud during the 2016 Blackwater Review reading on April 15. It was the first time she had gone in front of a crowd and read her work to an audience.

“I almost cried,” Tipton recalls. “I was so relieved I didn’t.”

Writers find it satisfying when readers respond to their work, and Tipton is no different. It’s a wonderful feeling, she said, to have people react emotionally to her story.

“I feel bad you’re crying, but I’m also excited you’re crying,” she said.

That reading was just the beginning of a whirlwind few days for Tipton, who also had the opportunity to spend April 18 with visiting spoken word poets Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye. Tipton, a big fan of Kay and Kaye, was able to attend a writers’ workshop with the pair in the morning, followed by a Q&A session that afternoon, and capped off by front-row seats for their evening performance in a packed Sprint Theater.

Oh, and at the Blackwater Review reception held right before Kay and Kaye took the stage, Tipton was presented her plaque and a cash award for winning the Editors’ Prize in Fiction.

“There was a lot happening at once,” she said.

Several faculty members have had a big impact on her during her time at the college. She credits Ms. Amy Krafcik, her 10th grade English teacher at Collegiate High School, for bringing out her passion for English.

“The way she got excited about The Great Gatsby got me excited,” Tipton said.

She also credits Dr. Beverly Holmes for the engaging way she taught her English classes, and Dr. Vickie Hunt for influencing and encouraging her development as a creative writer.

For her capstone project, a graduation requirement at Collegiate High, Tipton wrote a children’s book. How did that compare to the typical fiction writing she does?

“Writing on a third-grade level is a lot harder,” she said.

So now the future beckons for Tipton. Her dream job is “to be an editor of anything. It appeals to me so much.”

She would love to work for a major book company editing manuscripts.

“Just to edit all day sounds wonderful,” she said.

But first, she is enrolled at Florida State University this fall and will see where her burgeoning relationship with English takes her. She plans to seek out opportunities to submit her writing to publications at FSU and is eager to embrace the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead.

“You won’t get anywhere," she said, "if you don’t try.”