‘Purpose-Driven Press’: Alumna Keysha Lee delivers inspiring keynote address at GSPA Awards

Two-hundred fifty high school journalists and teachers from around the state learned about ways they can put purpose at the center of their media programs during the Georgia Scholastic Press Association‘s Spring Awards ceremony April 11, 2022, at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Keynote speaker Keysha Lee (ABJ ’97), an award-winning show host and filmmaker, businesswoman and author, delivered the inspiring message. She defined purpose as “a sense that the work you’re doing is deeply needed.”

Lee challenged scholastic journalism advisers to create a classroom environment where purpose is at the center of what is produced and created. She also outlined why it is important for student journalists to create a feeling among their staff and peers that student media has a bigger meaning. “You have to get everyone on board for that purpose-driven press,” she said. “Everyone has to buy in.”

 

Lee ranks as a Top 100 bestselling author on Amazon with her first book “Keysha Lee Presents Filmmaking 101.” Clayton County Library System offers her book in its collection to patrons at all seven of its branches. Her book also serves as the official text for Kansas City Public School’s Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts.

As a business owner, Lee leads her own media company, Leeway Productions. She stands out in the industry as the youngest black-owned business to gain a partnership with Fulton Films in Georgia. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunication Arts from Grady College and a Master’s in Education from Alabama State University.  She currently serves on Grady College’s Alumni Board.

High school journalists and teachers polish skills, network at GSPA’s Winter Conference

More than 300 hundred high school journalists and teachers across the state gathered at the University of Georgia’s Tate Student Center on Feb.10 for the Georgia Scholastic Press Association’s Winter Conference. After several years apart, attendees celebrated being “Back Together,” a theme suggested by GSPA Ambassador Anna Rachwalski of Midtown High School.

Ralitsa Vassileva teaches about storytelling and sustainability. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Professionals, faculty, staff, high school media advisers, and college and high school journalists led more than 40 sessions on important scholastic journalism topics. They covered graphics, social media, student press freedoms, sports journalism, visual journalism, writing and many other subjects. 

In addition to providing informative sessions, the conference also served as an opportunity to network and form connections,” GSPA Student Ambassador Jordan Tovin reflected in an essay about the event. Tovin currently serves as photo editor for Woodward Academy’s Phoenix yearbook. “Because the conference attracted students from all across Georgia, I spoke with editors and writers from Atlanta to Athens—discussing how to manage staff and the type of pieces that we publish. The conference provided a chance to see how I can improve the publications on which I work.” 

Grady College faculty and staff instructors included: Amanda Bright, Dodie Cantrell-Bickley (MFA ’17), Dean Charles Davis (MA ’92), Carlo Finlay, Marcella Genut (AB ’18), Keith Herndon (ABJ ’82), Mark Johnson, Lori Johnston (MFA ’17), Kim Landrum, Kyser Lough, Samantha Meyer (ABJ ’13, MA ’14), Vicki Michaelis, Brittney Minor, Jonathan Peters, Sabriya Rice, Ralitsa Vassileva, Joe Watson and Dayne Young (ABJ ’11). Alumni Joe Dennis (MA ’07, PhD ’16), Allison Floyd (ABJ ’97, MA ‘19), Charlotte Norsworthy (AB ’19, MA ’20) and Lauren Patrick (ABJ ’07) also taught classes. 

Students from Mary Persons High School visit Newsource. (Photo: Stephanie Moreno)

Throughout the day, staff and college students led tours of the Journalism building and Newsource, giving conference attendees a glimpse of what it is like to work in a real newsroom and what it means to be a Grady student.

Offered as conference extras, some attendees showcased their experiences through an On-the-Spot Social Media contest featuring Instagram and Twitter posts in a variety of ways. Others explored the theme of “Reflection” through an On-the-Spot Photography contest.

Students and teachers left the event buzzing with excitement and looking forward to GSPA’s Spring Workshop and Awards on April 11 at the UGA Georgia Center.

The Georgia Scholastic Press Association, housed within Grady College, was organized in 1928 to promote the understanding and practice of journalism. GSPA’s goal is to enhance middle school and high school broadcast, literary magazine, newspaper, news magazine, news website and yearbook programs by providing networking and skill development opportunities.

 

 

Journalism alumna Meredith Dean headlines GSPA keynote

Meredith Dean (ABJ ’14), a program coordinator for Ryan Seacrest Studios and founder of The Dean’s List, challenged nearly 900 high school students to stand out in a crowd, be well-rounded and to start working now on creating a professional impression.

Dean delivered her energetic keynote at the opening of the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Fall Conference on Sept. 19, at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia.

Dean began her talk by sharing her career path while interjecting pieces of advice. She encouraged the students to take advantage of opportunities and invitations to events where they can network with professionals, even as students. She also gave examples of how just showing up can open doors to the next opportunity. She advised the audience to be open to chance encounters and take risks.

“Anything that scares you is probably worth doing,” Meredith said, adding the caveat that students need stay within the limits of being safe.

She also advised that even as students, young people can contribute ideas and current skills that professionals may not have.

Among Dean’s messages was to always keep learning about today’s technologies: learn web design, take classes on LinkedIn Learning and go through the Google Analytics certification.

“You can always teach your mentors,” Dean said, recalling how she has helped several mentors with digital and social media concepts.

Woven throughout her entire talk was the theme of empowerment…empowering students to ask to shadow professionals for a day; empowering them to choose a word to guide them throughout the year; and empowering them to never think they are too young to contribute. The theme of empowerment is a personal theme of Dean’s who is in the final planning stages of directing EmpowerCon 2019, a motivational conference, in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 28.

Networking was a topic that came up throughout her talk. In addition to her advice of trying to reach out to someone new every day, she also advised reaching out to a variety of people in different professional groups, making a goal of connecting about a third of the time with peers, a third with mentors or more seasoned professionals and a third with mentees or those younger.

Dean introduced her Instagram followers to the students who shared a message of empowerment.

Dean concluded her talk by talking about social media do’s and don’ts, including establishing a personal brand early and completing online profiles.

“Make sure everything you post online is something you are proud of,” Dean said.

Dean works at the Seacrest Studios at the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is also the founder of The Dean’s List, a digital branding and consulting company that helps professionals build personal portfolios online. A portion of her Dean’s List proceeds go toward Habitat Aid Initiative, a non-profit that works to empower women and alleviate poverty in western Kenya. In 2018, Dean received recognition as a UGA 40 under 40 leader.

Bermudez named 2018 Georgia Champion Journalist

Lucia Bermudez, co-editor-in-chief of Odyssey Media Group at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia, has been named the 2018 Georgia Champion Journalist by the Georgia Scholastic Press Association at Grady College and the Journalism Education Association. The award recognizes the top high school senior journalist in the state.

Fellow Odyssey Media Group co-editor-in-chief Aneesa Conine-Nakano was the runner-up in the competition. Haley Burke, editor-in-chief of the Calvary Beacon at Calvary Day School in Savannah, Georgia, placed third.

The winners were selected from a pool of 11 entrants, each with portfolios packed with academic achievements and journalism accolades. Portfolios were scored in the following categories: candidate background; news gathering; writing; editing; design; multimedia broadcast; photojournalism; web; law and ethics; leadership and team building; news literacy; entrepreneurship; and candidate reflection.

The nomination of Bermudez included comments about her ability to recognize the unique power she possesses as a Latina journalist, “evident in her journalism work and in the various ways she speaks up for her community to ensure they have a voice.”

Bermudez demonstrates a commitment to her community that extends beyond the pages of the Odyssey. She tutors students at Clarke Middle School. She serves as vice president for her school’s Hope Club (Hispanic Organization Promoting Education), organizing fundraising projects and monthly meetings. She is co-president of her school’s Interact Club, which runs an annual event – DreamFest – to promote awareness of undocumented students in the community. She also founded the Latinx Student Union at her school, an organization that celebrates Latino culture and promotes volunteerism.

Bermudez will receive a $100 prize and be recognized at the GSPA Workshop and Awards April 17, 2018.  She also moves on to represent the state in the Journalism Education Association’s National Journalist of the Year competition.

In addition to the senior Georgia Champion Journalist of the Year, the GSPA honors the top high school junior journalist in the state. Ana Aldridge was named the junior winner and Valeria Garcia-Pozo was the runner-up. Both are on staff with the Odyssey Media Group.

Fernandes, Ritter named Georgia Champion Journalists

Sophie Fernandes, a senior at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia, has been named the Georgia Champion Journalist by the Georgia Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association.

Ellie Ritter of Decatur High School is the Georgia Champion Journalist runner-up.

The Georgia Champion Journalist Award recognizes the top high school senior journalist in the state.

Fernandes has been involved in Clarke Central High School’s Odyssey Newsmagazine since 2014. She has served in a variety of capacities including managing editor, photography editor, visuals staff member and viewpoints writer. She is a member of the National Honors Society and has received a number of awards for her photography and writing, including the Georgia Scholastic Press Association’s Junior Champion Journalist presented last year.

The nomination of Fernandes noted that her photography frequently includes “unique compositions and vivid sense of energy and emotion,” while her writing exhibits a “mature style and developed voice.” She also “shows both self-awareness and thoughtfulness in leading others.”

The Georgia Champion Journalist runner-up, Ritter, has been involved with Decatur High School’s news magazine Carpe Diem since 2013. She has served as design editor, copy editor and writer. Ritter is a member of the National Honor Society and is involved with mock trial, student government, marching band and varsity golf. In 2015, she was selected as a participant for the Governor’s Honors Program for English/Communicative Arts, a program that selects the top 1% of students in the state.

Ritter’s nomination included comments about her “enormous initiative in covering complicated issues that affect her community” and her ability to push herself to develop professional skills, including shadowing reporters at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in her spare time. The nomination added, “her photography shows great skill in capturing the right moments to tell a story; her reporting shows an innate understanding of journalism, down to AP Style; and she shows leadership in encouraging other reporters through her editing.”

Fernandes will compete against the other state winners in the national level. Winners will be announced at the JEA/NSPA convention’s concluding awards in Seattle, Washington.

GSPA received five top-notch submissions for the coveted award for the 2017 competition.

Fernandes and Ritter will be recognized during the GSPA Workshop and Awards event on April 24, 2017.

Record number of high school journalists learn from industry experts at 2016 GSPA fall conference

Learning from the experts: More than 800 high school journalists, yearbook staff members and advisers attended the 2016 Georgia Scholastic Press Association’s fall conference, held Oct. 26-27 at the University of Georgia.

The conference boasted 61 classes for students to take based on their publication and interests. These ranged from yearbook, newspaper and broadcast classes to classes specifically focused on using Adobe products, learning how to interview and advice on how to better manage and help staffs.

“Since this was my first time planning the conference, I was a bit nervous and excited. I was astoundingly surprised by the number of attendees,” said GSPA Director Roxanna Gandía. “After speaking with a couple of advisers, I was thrilled to learn how students were enjoying themselves and leaving sessions having learned something new. It made all those months of preparation worth it.”

Throughout the conference, students involved with all mediums—from newspaper to broadcast—attended sessions given by experts in their individual fields.

One expert was Mark Johnson, head of the visual journalism program at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.  Johnson led two sessions on photojournalism: one for beginners and an advanced session for those looking to learn more about their cameras functions and abilities. In his first session, Johnson covered the motive behind taking a photo, and why it is important to care about your work. “You want to be looking for those moments of surprise, you want to be there for those moments of joy, and we have to care about the people we cover,” Johnson said.  “If you care, it shows.”

In attending these sessions, students were able to see that they weren’t alone in their struggles; other staffs had issues to work through, as well.

Philip Li, a senior from Lakeside High School and editor of his school newspaper, had one such realization in the “Real Talk” session led by Jon Reese, adviser at Decatur High School. “It made me really appreciate our staff’s cohesiveness and supportiveness of each other,” Li said. “It was beneficial to hear the problems other schools had faced and how they got through them and to learn from other experiences to better my staff.”

Many students also benefitted from the sessions by learning tips to fix problems they had been facing in their individual work. Also a senior from Lakeside, aspiring rapper Arjun Ray attended a session on caption writing. “I write a lot of perspectives pieces and I’m always told to better my captions, so I went to ‘Caption Writing and More,’” Ray said. “I found out that what you should do is make your caption so specific to your school that you couldn’t put it in another school and make it fit.”

Though there were plenty of sessions for students to attend, that wasn’t the only reason they came to the conference. Some attended exclusively to participate in the on-site contests: a photo contest, a publication critique and a first issue competition. The photo contest had six entries, while the first issue competition drew 11 newspaper entries, seven news website entries and three newsmagazine entries. Seniors Aelise Gagliano and Kristen Sherman, photojournalists from Starr’s Mill High School, are members of The Prowler. Both Gagliano and Sherman entered the on-site photo contest. “I got a camera for my 16th birthday. It’s my favorite thing to do and it’s what I plan on doing the rest of my life,” Sherman said. “I entered the contest to see if they liked my photos, to get a general critique.”

At one of the last sessions of the day, students had the opportunity to hear the results of the summer contest winners.

In the literary magazine category there were three school divisions: Small, Medium and Large school. The Small school winner was Woodward Academy for Silent Voices. The Medium school winner was Clarke Central High School for The Iliad.  The Large school winner was North Forsyth High School for Threshold. Of the three winners, Clarke Central received the “All Georgia” rating.

In the yearbook category the amount of entries this year was so high that winners were split into four categories: Small, Medium, Large No.1, and Large No.2. Winning for the Small category was Darlington High School’s Jabberwokk. The Medium category had two winners: Chestatee High School’s The Eagle and Woodward Academy’s Phoenix. The winner for the Large No. 1 category was Union Grove High School’s Wolverscenes, and the winner for Large No. 2 was West Forsyth High School’s Zephyr.  Of the five winners, Darlington School’s Jabberwokk received the “All Georgia” rating. Of the individual entries, there were twenty winners between the Literary Magazine and Yearbook entries with 54 entries being given a “Superior” rating.

Founded in 1928 by Grady College faculty, the Georgia Scholastic Press Association serves high school journalists and teachers in the state of Georgia. The organization hosts an annual fall conference, a spring workshop and a biennial advisers workshop. For more information about GSPA, visit www.ugagpsa.org.