How CSPA changed my life

CSPA 2018 Recap from Mohi Andrabi on Vimeo.

 


The day after my 18th birthday, my dad forwarded me an email that read:

Roselyn, congrats: You have been accepted to the 2018 CSPA/Cal Poly Journalism Workshop in San Luis Obispo, which runs from Sunday, July 8, to Friday, July 20.

Initially, I didn’t believe it. On the California Scholastic Press Association website, the program describes itself as the “most prestigious high school journalism workshop in the nation for more than 60 years.” To be accepted into a workshop with such distinguished magnitude simultaneously terrified and astounded me.

Three months later, I packed my luggage to the brim with enough clothes, snacks, and supplies for 12 days. My family and I drove from our humble home in suburban Oxnard to the hilly ranges of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s campus. With the help of my dad, I lugged my bags to the second floor of Lassen Hall, where I would be sleeping for the next several days.

After hugging my parents goodbye, I trudged to the group’s meeting spot just outside of Lassen Hall, where my adventure with CSPA began.

During orientation, 23 students and I were told that the next 12 days were going to be the best 12 days of our lives. As a natural-born skeptic, I didn’t believe it.

Three days after the workshop ended, I can say that the CSPA workshop was, in fact, the best two weeks of my entire life thus far.

Through the workshop, I was able to meet journalists and producers who work at CNN, Good Day LA, Dateline NBC, Los Angeles Times, KSBY TV, Associated Press, The Spokesman-Review, Orange County Register, and many other media outlets. I learned how to cover breaking news, submit stories under tight deadlines, create a podcast, design a newspaper within 48 hours, cover sports like football and basketball (something I thought I’d never do), and so much more. I’ve cultivated bonds with people from Sacramento to Boston and spoken with professionals and college graduates from all over California.

To say that CSPA changed my life is an understatement. The connections I’ve made, the bonds I’ve created, and the skills I’ve mastered over those 12 days are unlike any other educational workshop I have experienced. In fact, I learned more about journalism in those two weeks than I did when I wrote for my high school newspaper for two years.

As a budding multimedia journalist, I grew exponentially through the program. I was constantly surrounded by equally ambitious individuals who shared the same goals as me. In many assignments, I learned to interview and produce stories with deadlines ranging from 15 minutes to one hour with like-minded peers. Our ambitions and creativity melded seamlessly, allowing us to create content like our first broadcast news show and our very own issue of the CSPA Reporter.

All the instructors – who were not paid a single penny to teach at the workshop – were approachable and ready to answer any questions I may have had about the material they taught and the pros and cons of pursuing a career in journalism. Most of them were CSPA workshop alumni, which propelled me to dream big – if they can do it, I can, too. If they can go through the same workshop and find success in the journalism industry after college, I can, too.

Some of my favorite people from the workshop are the counselors, who acted as the liaison between the students and the instructors. Since they were still young, the counselors were able to relate to the students much more deeply than the instructors and were there for us when we felt sick, upset, or stressed out. Regardless of the situation, the CSPA counselors helped me feel at home at the workshop when my actual home was two hours away.

If you are a high school student and have an affinity for writing or journalism, please consider applying to the CSPA workshop. It will change your life (as it did mine) and will push your abilities so you can graduate from the program as a stronger writer, student, and potential journalist. Even if you aren’t interested in journalism, CSPA will help you improve your writing, meet deadlines under pressure, think critically and quickly, work well in collaborative settings, and engage with your audience through multimedia platforms, all of which are skills you can use in any field.

As CSPA instructor and Orange County Register reporter Rich Hammond said at the workshop, “I always knew that I wanted to go into journalism, but CSPA taught me that I could actually do it.”

When applications for the 2019 CSPA workshop are live, I will share the link via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my blog. If you have any questions regarding the workshop or journalism in general, feel free to shoot me a message or email. Until then, take care!

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