Facing weather in the high thirties to forties, fourteen journalism students, alongside their advisors Ms. Diana Adams and Mrs. Ashley Hendricks travelled to Chicago to attend the co-organized Journalism Education Association and National Scholastic Press Association (JEA/NSPA) convention Nov. 1 through Nov. 4.
After a 6:30 a.m. flight Thursday, Nov. 1, the group split up to stroll through the many booths of vendors and colleges stationed throughout the ground floor of the Hyatt Regency Chicago hotel. That night, keynote speaker Pete Souza, who served as chief photographer under the Obama and Reagan administrations, signed books for students. Since over 6,000 students attended the convention, a lottery was held to pick students to meet Souza for a book signing. One student from Heritage, senior Amber Bhutta, won a lottery spot allowing her to wait in line 40 minutes for an autograph. “Pete Souza is such an incredible photographer, and he provides this refreshingly honest sense of what politics and the presidency are supposed to be. Meeting him and speaking with him made me feel a little more hopeful despite our current political climate,” Bhutta said.
Throughout the rest of the weekend, students partook in workshops to enhance their journalistic skills. The workshops energized yearbook staffer junior Paula Mitre to brainstorm ideas for future publications. “I really loved the workshops because it’s so motivating to be surrounded by so much inspiration. It really makes me want to work harder to produce a better yearbook,” Mitre said.
On the second day of the convention, after a full morning of workshops, write-off
competitions took place, offering students the chance to produce content based on a prompt given that day within an allotted amount of time. Included in the group of aspiring journalists competing in individual write-off competitions, such as feature writing and yearbook copy, were seniors Dalya Ackerman, Emily Irigoyen, Olivia Lloyd and Ariann Barker.
Throughout the first day of the weekend, journalism students attended lectures and ended the day with the first of two award ceremonies. The second ceremony, held Sunday morning, crowned two write-off competitors, Ackerman and Barker, with honorable mentions in yearbook copy and caption and literary magazine photography, respectively.
After a weekend absorbing journalistic knowledge, the staffs hope to better their respective publications and appreciate more the impact student journalism makes. “I feel like I gained a little bit more experience from this conference and also a lot more appreciation for journalism as a whole since we got to see publications from all over the country. It’s really humbling to see how universal it is what we’re doing. It was definitely a positive experience,” Mitre said. With new memories created and journalistic skills expanded, the JEA/NSPA Chicago convention certainly achieved their goal within the American Heritage publications staffs.