The Pennsylvania School Press Association is a program focused on showcasing the talents and abilities of student journalists by hosting events for students to compete at the regional level, and from there, the state level. Regional Student Journalist Competitions (SJC’s) take place at universities throughout the state. They feature writing, design, photography and artistic opportunities.
Accompanied by Juniata Valley Business Teacher and FBLA adviser Erica Mowrer, six JVHS junior and senior high students were invited to compete in the Central Region SJC hosted by the PSPA executive board member and contest coordinator Nate Thompson. Thompson is also the New Day Charter School Press Club adviser and an English teacher.
The event was held in the Sill Board Room of the Von Liebig building at Juniata College Oct. 31. Schools in attendance were Juniata Valley, Bellwood Antis, State College, Tyrone, Tussey Mountain and New Day Charter School.
Students were able to choose topics from a list of more than 15 yearbook or journalism categories. JVHS students in yearbook categories were 7th grader Madison Mowrer (yearbook layout), sophomore Bella Stania (yearbook caption writing) and senior Lexie Reed (yearbook sports writing). JVHS students in journalism categories were junior Kaitlin Raifsnider (editorial comic), senior April Boss (newspaper feature writing) and senior Rachel Brubaker (literary magazine stand-alone artwork).
Upon arrival, schools were welcomed by Juniata College Provost Lauren Bowen. To kick off the event, special keynote speaker Kelly Luvison, publisher of The Daily Review and The Morning Times, delivered an introductory speech giving words of wisdom to the up and coming journalist audience. Competitors were then given around 45 minutes to produce a submission piece for their category of choice. Afterwards, Thompson collected the students’ finished works and everyone was dismissed to breakout sessions.
Each session represented one of the many fields of talent highlighted by the PSPA. Sessions were held in both the Von Liebig building and Good Hall. Competitors could choose to attend one of three sessions: “New Media,” with Juniata College director of digital communication Luke Fragello; “Life of a Small Town Reporter,” with Daily News managing editor, Becky Weikert; or “Storytelling, The Key to Everything,” with Jostens yearbook representative Scott Geesy.
Everyone then returned to Von Leibig for the closing address, where competitors were congratulated on their talent and hard work. Thompson informed the audience that they had double the number of participating schools and competing students this year, and competitors will receive their results in about two weeks. Depending on their score, some will be eligible to participate in the state level SJC held at Penn State University later this year.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was our first time participating in the competition,” commented Boss, also a Press Club reporter. “I think we all learned a lot, and I actually felt pretty prepared because of my years spent as a press club reporter. It was a great experience!”
In closing, Thompson stated: “I love that I was able to finish off our three-year rotation with my alma mater and bring the competition to the school that made me who I am.”