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Mountain Echo

Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

A day in review at PSPA

Makenzie Closson
Nittany Nation. To tie in with the press conference from Sarah Higgins, the iconic Nittany Lion symbol suddenly had much more impact.

The day started out uncomfortable and rainy. 

However, this unfortunate weather didn’t stop the Altoona Area yearbook and newspaper staff from attending the Pennsylvania Scholastic Press Convention (PSPA) at Pennsylvania University. After the dreary drive filled with singing and windshield wipers working full power, we arrived at the Hub at Penn State, filling our empty stomachs with everything bagels and tons (and tons) of caffeine. 

Once we found our seats and settled in, we listened to opening remarks from PSPA President, Aaron Fitzpatrick and Ben Affleck, a journalist for 30 years. Fitzpatrick gave the crowd of aspiring journalists information on the Student Journalism Act, a censorship-free, student-run media program that is aimed to protect student journalists from facing censorship and self-censorship battles. Affleck left the crowd with a word of gratitude for young journalists telling us that, “The ability to communicate clearly will benefit you in every career you choose.” 

Following the opening remarks, the press conference was next on the agenda, featuring Sarah Higgins. Higgins is the new Assistant Athletic Director for all Penn State sports. She touched on all aspects of her job, from media, marketing, uniforms, advertising, traveling and making important connections. 

Higgins left reporters with an impactful quote: “The foundations of journalism don’t change… just how you convey it.”

After Higgins answered questions from the audience, the competing students were escorted to their different rooms. I wished my staff mates a brief good luck, and realized I had an hour to kill around the campus with a few of my friends who also weren’t competing. After a lengthy debate on where to spend our time, we all agreed to visit the Penn State Creamery. 

The walk we took was not fun. With the wind, rain, gloomy clouds and my lack of a jacket— seven minutes felt like 20. Despite having to walk in a huddle with my arms crossed tightly against my chest, head down and eyes squinted, just spending time with the friends I’ve made through journalism made it worth it. We laughed and sang quite a bit, took in the campus atmosphere and counted all the worms we found squirming around the sidewalks. 

When we reached the creamery, we all took turns ordering giant ice cream cones. I ordered “Peachy Paterno,” of course, and the rest of my friends bought a variety of chocolate, cookie dough and cookies n’ cream. Noticing we were in a time crunch, we walked back to The Hub with giant ice cream cones in our hands. It was so good that I didn’t think about how cold it was making me. 

We still had about 20 minutes left before we went to lunch, so we took a walk around to look at all the vendors that were there for LGBTQ+ awareness. Gaining some new information, pictures with drag queens and lots of free goodies, we were finally ready to eat lunch.

I tried to avoid the chaos of the food court and ordered a chicken sandwich with a large Diet Coke and a side of fries. We all sat on bleachers together, conversing and having social time before returning to the convention.

Soon enough, it was time for roundtable discussions. We were introduced to the Belisario College of Communications students, who gave us information about how their roles in journalism aren’t confined to certain limits. The students who spoke to our groups told us about their podcasts, news shows and even game shows they were involved in. 

After being given tons of vital information from the Belisario students, it was time to hear a speech from the 2024 Pennsylvania teacher of the year, Ashlie Crosson.

Let yourself do things you genuinely love

— Ashlie Crosson

Crosson walked the audience through her journey to becoming a teacher and highlighted all the mistakes she had to make to get there, including a story about an embarrassing mistake you made where she felt as if she didn’t have compassion and empathy for her students. The speech itself was impactful for me, and a lot of my staff members. She showed that you don’t have to be perfect to be good at something you love.

To end the day, the competition results were announced, and my good friend Olivia McMinn won first in yearbook sports writing. It was a wonderful celebration, and Olivia herself was decently shocked that she had won. After reassuring her that she had it in the bag the entire time, we were ready to start our drive back to Altoona.

PSPA has given me so many opportunities to excel in journalism, and it was a unique experience getting to enjoy the day without competing on-site. I always have a good time with the people I work alongside in the journalism classroom, and I believe that we all left feeling more inspired than we previously had been going into this. 

We also were craving more ice cream.

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About the Contributor
Makenzie Closson
Makenzie Closson, Associate Editor
My name is Makenzie Closson. I am a second year member of the Mountain Echo and Horseshoe yearbook staffs. Last year, I became a PSPA finalist and even won first in the state for yearbook copy writing. Besides just being involved in the publications, I'm a competitive dancer. I also enjoy playing my guitar, creating art and film making. After high school, I plan to attend a film school to become a director.

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    LindaMay 1, 2024 at 7:54 pm

    Great read Makenzie.. i kind of felt like i was at PSU while i read your blog. Now i want Creamery Ice scream.