By Mimi Wood, Island Eye News Staff Reporter
Let’s be honest. Who among us doesn’t have an outstanding kid, at least in our own minds?
“I’ve taught a lot of great students,” proclaims Phillip Caston, South Carolina’s 2012 High School Advisor of the Year, the year Charleston County was lucky enough to lure him to Wando High School. “But it’s hard to imagine I’ll have another like Sophie,” he continues, whose “drive and instinct, coupled with her talent, make her really unique.”
Caston is speaking of Sophie Winnick, recently named 2017 South Carolina Scholastic Journalist of the Year, by the South Carolina Interscholastic Press Association (SIPA). As she becomes a Gamecock this fall, it’s doubtful that even the most ardent Clemson fan would be able to utter a discouraging word against her. And with her ultimate goal of becoming an NFL agent, young players from both campuses would be wise to make a mental note of this talented, determined young woman.
Winnick’s passion for sports began around age five or six, as soon as she was old enough to realize that her brother, 17 years her senior, was a huge Yankee fan. “I became obsessed with the Red Sox,” she recalls, learning the game of baseball, and memorizing statistics on every player. “It was a competition thing,” she grins.
Her passion for journalistic excellence was unleashed when Caston approached Winnick in the fall of 2012, freshman year at Wando for both.
“I recruited her for the yearbook staff,” Caston says. By sophomore year she was Sports Editor, relentlessly delving into photography with every season and event.
Junior year found her as Photo Editor of The Legend, Wando’s yearbook. Her intense drive for excellence, coupled with her motivation and willingness to help her fellow students learn, resulted in 21 awards at that year’s SIPA Convention; 75 percent of them for photography.
Anna Perryman, a selfdescribed “quiet, shy” rising senior at Wando, relates how influential Winnick has been to her.
“She encouraged me to take AP classes when I didn’t think I was smart enough. She inspired me to do better…to help me realize I’m capable of accomplishing so much more.”
The 2017-18 Co-Editor-in- Chief of The Legend, rising senior Brooke Fletcher, agrees. “Sophie encouraged me to take roles of responsibility, and pushed me to do more.” Fletcher elaborates, with Winnick agreeing, that “her passion can be perceived as ‘over the top’.”
Winnick is a team player, however; boosting others, taking pride in everyone’s accomplishments, and down playing her own.
“Phillip Caston and Yearbook have taught me so much more than journalism,” Winnick deflects her accomplishments back to her teacher, advisor and mentor. “I’ve learned leadership skills, people management, and problem solving.” As for Caston, who loves teaching English, as well as Intro to Journalism, he “watches the clock, waiting for Yearbook.”
“He had a lot to teach, and I had a lot I wanted to learn,” Winnick sums up their relationship. Her legacy will surely continue, as she, in turn, has passed the knowledge and skills she’s gained onto her fellows.
A compelling example of Winnick’s work, an photo-essay regarding the June 17, 2015 tragedy at the Mother Emmanuel AME Church, can be found in the March 5, 2016 edition of The Island Eye News, available online.