Twice a year, journalism nerds and yearbook nerds (yerds) alike gather in Athens, Georgia for the Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA) conference, held this year at the Classic Center. Journalism students highly anticipate this event as the conference provides them with an opportunity to learn new information regarding their field, meet new friends, and improve their school’s press outlets.
The conference starts out, as always, with a keynote speaker and judges presenting awards to a variety of journalist groups. This year, UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications alumna and entrepreneur, Meredith Dean delivered an inspiring speech encouraging youth to use their voices, emphasizing how they hold the power to make a difference. Dean discussed how reaching out to someone at school can better their own lives in unknown ways, and encouraged the audience to give each other hugs, citing studies that emphasize the need for eight hugs a day. She later went into detail about her company The Dean’s List, a digital branding company, and explained how young people today should use their social media in order to advertise themselves to colleges. Dean also described the internship she provides to youth and encouraged everyone present to apply. In the general session, the judges also presented summer awards to a variety of journalist groups.
After listening to the keynote speech, students and their advisors went through five rounds during which they chose from a multitude of sessions presented by credible speakers providing press outlets with the opportunity to improve as well as expand their audience. These sessions included courses on social media, grammar, creating more engaging content, and even a session from content creator Adam Ragusea titled, Everything I learned from Blowing Up on Youtube.
“Getting to learn from experienced journalists was a great opportunity for me. I loved being able to meet new people and listen to their experiences,” junior Yearbook student Molly Geraci said.
In between sessions two and three, students took advantage of the opportunity to explore the cuisines of Athens during their lunch break. The Classic Center, located in the heart of downtown, surrounds itself with a variety of tempting restaurants, making it hard for students to choose only one eatery to enjoy.
In the spring, the groups will gather again for the award ceremony during which the schools will show off their progress and how they incorporated the information they learned in the fall to improve their press outlet.
From NC, the Panorama and The Chant made the journey to Athens to attend GSPA and after learning an indescribable amount, braved the rush hour traffic back home and quickly got to work, implementing new ideas.