- Maddox Patterson '15 Making Her Mark with Student Athletes
- RJ Smith '18 is Making His Mark On and Off the Court
- “Deviate from Denial: Erasing the Stigma of Addiction and Recovery Through Inspirational Stories” by Sam Perez '18
- Springboard For Success (Naomi Clayton '16)
- John Shares His Pride for Sayre, John A. Palumbo II '67
- Blueprints to Success, Lauren Shepherd '18
- Hunting His Dreams, Hunter Simms '03
- An Interview with Tate Russell Sherman '99
- Cabot Haggin '11 Hits the Trifecta
- Gracefully Making Her Mark (Grace Rahman '14)
Former Sayre basketball standout RJ Smith '18 continues to make his mark on the basketball court and in the classroom. Attending Centre College, RJ received the Southern Athletic Association Player of the Week award two weeks in a row. RJ is a team leader averaging 17.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. RJ plans to graduate this spring with a degree in physics. We are Spartan proud of RJ's leadership and accomplishments in college.
Can you tell us a little about your book coming in September 2022?
Absolutely! My book is called “Deviate from Denial: Erasing the Stigma of Addiction and Recovery Through Inspirational Stories” and it will officially be published in September.
It’s inspired by my parents’ work through their restaurants DV8 Kitchen. When I was a senior at Sayre in fall 2017, my mom and dad opened the restaurant and bakery. It is a second chance employment opportunity, meaning that all the employees who work there are in recovery from substance use disorder or addiction.
Over the years, I watched my parents develop the concept. I have worked alongside them and gotten to meet so many of the incredible employees who have really impactful stories. One thing I’ve realized through the stories I’ve heard and the people I’ve met is that addiction doesn’t discriminate – it affects everyone. Despite the fact that the growing opioid epidemic is affecting millions of lives, addiction is still so stigmatized. I think the first step in tackling the big problem we’re facing is by starting the conversation and approaching it with honesty and transparency.
I am studying journalism in college and I love telling stories and writing, so I thought what better way to shine light on such an important topic than by sharing those messages through a book! My book is broken up into three parts:
1. Context on the opioid epidemic and how we got here
2. A compilation of stories of either from people who have directly struggled with addiction or from the perspective of loved ones who have watched someone they know go through addiction
3. An explanation of the current recovery options that exist and a few different proposals for potential solutions of how we can reframe our thought processes to erase the stigma
You are a published author BEFORE you graduate from college. How does that make you feel?
It’s absolutely crazy!!! Writing a book is one of those ‘bucket list items’ that I had always had in the back of my mind. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I sat down with my parents and listened to their stories and started to write them down with no particular reason or clear direction in mind. In August 2021, I decided to take what I had written and use it in a larger project. Once I decided I was really serious about writing the book, it was full-force ahead!
It's wild to think about how much is happening right now from graduating to publishing a book to preparing for a new job. There is a lot going on and I am so beyond thankful for all of it.
I seriously could not have done any of it without so much support. My parents have been so gracious, encouraging and helpful throughout the entire writing (and now publishing) process. The same goes for the communities that I’ve been lucky to be apart of, both in Georgia and in Kentucky. I’m forever grateful!
Was there any particular teacher/staff here at Sayre that encouraged you to become a journalist/author?
Absolutely! First of all, I am grateful to every single person within the Sayre community. While I have always been grateful for such a phenomenal high school experience surrounded by such amazing people, I have realized just how lucky I am since coming to college. I was encouraged by Sayre faculty and staff every single day of high school and that is not something that I take for granted.
When it comes to specific teachers, the entire English department has been a huge part of encouraging me to pursue journalism in college and as a future career. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Leer both taught me for two years each and I genuinely enjoyed learning from them. I have always loved reading and writing, but they both helped me to hone my writing skills and they made it enjoyable in the process. Having Mr. Thompson as a senior was pivotal in my college application process as he gave my class advice on writing good essays and offered words of wisdom as we all prepared to part ways.
Also, Mr. Mills and Ms. Bilberry were also incredibly influential! I would not be at the University of Georgia had Mr. Mills not suggested it. I’m one of those non-traditional college students in that I came in to UGA as a journalism major and I’m graduating as one, which means that I knew even in high school that I wanted to pursue journalism. While I was certain that was the track I wanted to take, I had no idea how to get started or where to look. Mr. Mills suggested UGA because of its top-notch journalism school and I am SO glad he did. Spending my last 4 years here in Athens has been nothing short of spectacular and I owe that all to him. When it comes to being certain I wanted to pursue journalism, Ms. Bilberry helped me foster that passion. I have always loved public speaking, and I was able to learn and develop my skills in her class as a sophomore. My senior year at Sayre, I worked at the local news station WKYT and it blew my mind. I was pretty sure I wanted to go into local television news, but being up close and personal for a whole month was invaluable.
I’ll never forget the day where I followed a reporter to Rockcastle County for a story. On the way back, we got called to Richmond for a breaking news story: an art warehouse had caught fire. As the reporter and I hustled to the scene and took in the big billow of smoke, he handed me the microphone and set me off to go conduct interviews. That was hands-on learning at its finest and it lit the fire in me (pun intended) to seriously pursue this in college and beyond. Getting encouragement from Ms. Bilberry throughout the internship process kept me motivated and ultimately allowed me to have such a great experience.
Graduating in May from the University of Georgia, what are your plans for the future?
In May, I will graduate magna cum laude from UGA with a bachelor of arts in journalism from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, a bachelor of arts in Spanish from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and a New Media Certificate from the New Media Institute.
In July, I am headed to Columbia, SC where I will work as a television news reporter (official title is multi-skilled journalist) for the local station WLTX News 19. I could not be more excited for what the future has to hold!
A bit more about Sam's book “Deviate from Denial: Erasing the Stigma of Addiction and Recovery Through Inspirational Stories”:
I am using a crowdsourcing model to publish my book. My publisher, New Degree Press, has teamed up with IndieGoGo to basically fundraise for the publishing cost. I have a 30-day pre-order campaign that is live right now and will close on April 30: https://igg.me/at/
There are varying contribution levels. No matter the level you choose, you receive: a copy of the book (options: digital e-copy or softcover), early access to my "Introduction" chapter, you get to help me choose my book's cover, and your name will appear in the "Acknowledgements" section of my book.
Higher contribution levels come with a few added perks, such as tickets to a Deviate from Denial Dinner at DV8 event that will be hosted in November at DV8 Kitchen’s East End location.
I have a base fundraising goal that I need to meet in order to publish a softcover. After I meet that goal, I hope to continue to raise money to publish a hardcopy and an audio book (which I would get to record myself – how cool)! Check out Sam's video!
Sayre taught me the importance of a community that felt like a family. Along with this, Sayre also taught me the importance of small classes with good student/teacher relationships and the impact that this can make on your education. Read more
"I was able to sit in on the Lower School construction meetings with architects, contractors, and engineers. It was especially interesting to hear all of the jargon that surrounds the field. I was able to work on my people skills and feel more prepared for college and the real world.” Read More
"A Sayre education is bar none and I think the small class sizes are important. This enables the teachers to give individual attention to each student to ensure that they fully understand and are excelling on the current task and/or subject at hand." Read more
Tate Russell Sherman
Sayre School, Class of 1999
University of Mississippi, Class of 2013
"It’s no secret that Sayre has played a special role in my family’s life. Dating back to my great grandmother, almost every family member has been a part of the Sayre community in some way." Read more
Sayre School, Class of 2011
University of Kentucky, Class of 2013
“I can’t get enough of Sayre. I love just walking around campus and seeing my teachers. It’s definitely a family feel at Sayre.” Read More
Sayre School, Class of 2014
George Washington University, Class of 2018