Beaufort High School Theatre Students, Educator win National Award

Tammie Newman,
Director of Communications/Public Relations                    /  803.896.0417

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The South Carolina High School League is proud to announce the Beaufort High School theatre students and instructor, LaRaine Fess, have been named the 2019 National Federation of High Schools HEART OF THE ARTS award winner. This is the very first submission by the SCHSL for the NFHS HOA award and the fifth year the award has been given.

“The performance shared by these young professionals is not only informative, but high energy and captive. I was moved as I watched them and truly proud to call them South Carolina students. Our guests from around the southeast were left speechless and inspired. Just another example of the many talents we encompass in our schools, including multi-talented student-athletes that take part in organizations such as this. Congratulations to a well deserving group of students and educator,” stated Commissioner Jerome Singleton.

This award recognizes individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. Although the SCHSL is an athletics only entity, the NFHS encourages each state to submit nominees they feel share the common belief that athletics and academics are solid partners in education; to include arts education. Beaufort High School’s winning ensemble of actors includes approximately 10 student-athletes who juggle acting with sports.

Stunned by the news, Mrs. Fess stated, “I would like to thank everyone for this award. My students and I are deeply humbled by this announcement. It is our goal to have everyone take ownership of their actions and know things can indeed change for the better. Good will win every time!”

The Heart of the Arts award will be presented to Mrs. Fess at the Annual NFHS National Conference and 100th Anniversary Celebration on July 29, 2019, in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband will be special guests for several celebrations and commemorative events.

“Mrs. Fess and her students are able to reach a variety of demographically diverse audiences through unique dramatic skills. As the production unfolds, the anti-bullying message is clear, demanding even. See something, say something no matter what. Powerful actors with an empowering message. We are thrilled for national attention to be placed on South Carolina’s excellent schools and programs,” states Tammie Newman, Communications and Public Relations Director.

The 2019 SCHSL Student Leadership Summit on March 29 will introduce the Beaufort High School theatre group to hundreds of South Carolina student-athletes when they present their anti-bullying message as well as kickoff a special initiative with SLS participants.

For additional information, contact the SCHSL Office or 803.896.0417:

NFHS HOA Award:  
John C. Gillis
Associate Director of Video Services 
(317) 822-5723                                                         

Beaufort High School Theatre Group:
Laraine Fess, Director
(843) 252-7638

South Carolina Drama Teacher and Beaufort High School Theatre Students Selected as National Recipients of NFHS National High School Heart of the Arts Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             Contact: John Gillis

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (March 12, 2019) — LaRaine Fess, drama teacher at Beaufort (South Carolina) High School and the Beaufort High School Theatre Students have been selected the 2019 national recipients of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. This is the fifth year that the National High School Heart of the Arts Award has been offered.

For the past 21 years, Fess has been an educator, including the past 14 years as the theatre teacher at Beaufort (South Carolina) High School. She has been a seven-time “Teacher of the Year” nominee.

In her position as a teacher, Fess has used that platform to reach out to students in her district and to teach them about bullying. She has written two original plays for her theatre students.

In 2013, Fess’ then-third grade son was bullied on a school bus. Devastated by the event, Fess asked her students the following question: “Is bullying is still an issue in school?”

Overwhelmingly, her students started sharing situations in which they had been a victim, a bystander and even a bully. After “Ripping off the Band-Aid,” Fess and her theatre classes made a promise to one another and to themselves to take a stand against bullying. They made a pact to never be a bully, a victim or a bystander. They promised that “When they would see something, they would say something.” With that promise in place, seven years later, more than 300 theatre students have been part of the solution as they have performed for more than 7,000 students.

Fess’ goal is to keep performing and talking so students will know what to do when they see bullying and what to do when they are a victim. Their positions were “If we stay quiet, then the bullies win. We are the only school in the state with an inhouse performance on such an important topic. Most districts bring in speakers to talk about this issue. Beaufort County allows its students to teach their peers about bullying.”

In 2017, they presented some of the show for the National High School League Convention in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Dr. Akil E. Ross, Sr., Chapin (South Carolina) High School principal at the time and National Principal of the Year, saw a few scenes and asked if they could come to Chapin and perform for the entire school of approximately 1,300 students. Two years later, they presented to high school athletes and athletic directors at the Leadership Convention in Columbia, South Carolina.

During 2016, 2017 and 2018, Fess and her theatre students were recognized by the Beaufort County Council for their work to take a stand against bullying. The Beaufort County Council proudly gave them a declaration of “Anti-Bully Month” last October.

Since 2012, the Rotary of Low Country has been a very active partner with Beaufort High School Theatre to help them take a stand against bullying. It has supported them in presenting programs at conventions in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland. In addition, they work together to get out the message to all sixth-graders in the district. In 2017, Fess received the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary of Low Country.

About the Award

In addition to the selection of LaRaine Fess and the Beaufort High School Theatre Department as the national award recipients, the NFHS National High School Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee chose seven individuals and two groups for section awards. Following are the 2019 National High School Heart of the Arts section winners:

Section 1 – Nathanael Batson, student, Fairfield (Maine) Lawrence High School

Section 2 – Kayla Scott, student, Charlottesville (Virginia) Monticello High School

Section 3 – LaRaine Fess, drama teacher at Beaufort (South Carolina) High School and the Beaufort High School Theatre Department

Section 4 – Johnathon Giesecke, student, Belvidere (Illinois) North High School

Section 5 – Waseca (Minnesota) High School Theatre Department

Section 6 – Dayton Thomas, student, Mabank (Texas) High School

Section 7 – Tristan McMichael, student, Quincy (California) High School

Section 8 – Emma Lawless, student, Canby (Oregon) High School

Nominations for this award were generated through NFHS member state associations and reviewed by the NFHS National High School Heart of the Arts Award Selection Committee composed of state association staff members. While the national winner will be recognized June 29 at the NFHS Summer Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, the section winners will be recognized within their respective states and will receive awards before the end of the current school year.

The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was started in 2014. Including this year, six individuals, one band and one theatre group have been chosen national award recipients.

The previous award recipients follow:

2014 – Leia Schwartz, student-athlete/performing arts student, Miami (Florida) Coral Reef High School

2015 – Ethan Gray, performing arts student, Chicago (Illinois) St. Rita of Cascia High School

2016 – Midland City (Alabama) Dale County High School Marching Band and Band Director Sherri Miller

2017 – Josephine Ross, student, St. Paul (Minnesota) Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School

2018 – Cecelia Egan, student, Riverside (Rhode Island) St. Mary Academy-Bay


About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and fine arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and fine arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,000 high schools and 11 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7.9 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; produces publications for high school coaches, officials and athletic directors; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, spirit coaches, speech and debate coaches and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS Web site at

MEDIA CONTACT:                      John Gillis, 317-972-6900

                                                      National Federation of State High School Associations

                                                      PO Box 690, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206