Journalism staffs attends virtual convention


Maddie Cowfer

The Mountain Echo staff attends the JEA virtual convention. The staff that took part in this convention had a new experience. This screen shot shows the virtual lobby students went to for all of the experiences.

Maddie Cowfer, Reporter

Journalism students attended the first virtual convention presented by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. These journalists  attended the convention Thursday and Friday of Nov. 19 and 20. 

The convention had guest speakers who taught journalism students and advisers about how to be a student journalist and how to run a newspaper. There were also sessions for yearbook and literary magazine staffs.

“The JEA /NSPA National Convention is sponsored by the Journalism Education Association along with the National Scholastic Press Association.  My understanding is the convention offers learning sessions for students and advisers along with keynote speakers, breakout sessions and discussion groups related to scholastic media,” Community Relations Director Paula Foreman said. 

The Altoona Area School District Foundation funded this experience through an Educator in Residence grant.  The foundation’s decision to fund this convention rewards the students with educational benefits to help them in the future. 

“The AASD Foundation’s mission is to develop, promote and finance educational programs, activities and projects for the Altoona Area School District.  Mrs. Vanish submitted an Educator-in-Residence Grant to fund the registration fees for attending the convention, pay for a substitute teacher for two days to cover her classes while she participated as the clubs’ adviser and a pizza lunch for the students ‘attending.’  The Foundation supported this project because of the educational benefits students would gain from attending,” Foreman said. 

The Foundation offers multiple grants yearly.

“Money for the AASD Foundation Grant program is raised annually. Currently we have about 50 local businesses and individuals who participate in the grant program.  We also have teachers who support the grant program through payroll donations,” Foreman said. 

Each teacher has the opportunity to submit a request to get a  grant from the ASSD Foundation Grant to educational benefit students.  

“Teachers have the opportunity each year to submit a Teacher Venture Grant or an Educator-in-Residence Grant to the AASD Foundation.  A Venture Grant is specific to a teacher’s classroom.  These grants are typically creative and innovative projects teachers would like to pilot in their classroom but are not funded by the school’s budget.  Educator-in-Residence Grants fund bringing outside educators such as artists, authors and other experts in their fields into the schools to work with students.  In this case, the experts were virtual, in the form of this year’s convention,” Foreman said. 

The grant was given to the journalism students in hopes to help them gain knowledge to what they already know prior to attending. 

“Our hope is students who attended the virtual convention gained additional knowledge that will make them better writers, journalists and/or media specialists. Anytime you have the opportunity to hear from experts and gain different perspectives working with peers in the same industry, I believe, it makes you a stronger person.  We should always be learning,” Foreman said. 

Due to current circumstances with Covid-19, traveling to the convention was not an option for school across the country.  

“The fact this convention was held virtually gave so many more students the opportunity to attend.  When these types of conventions are held nationally, they are normally held in locations that, for us, require extensive travel and lodging accommodations.  It makes it cost prohibitive for the district to fund the trip and if students want to go, it puts the responsibility of raising the funds on the advisers, students and their families.  In this case, being able to sponsor nearly 50 students to attend virtually made it not only affordable, but more students were able to attend and students were not burdened with raising funds,” Foreman said. 

Some students were unsure what to expect from a virtual convention. 

“I feel that my opinion changed a lot from when it started. I wasn’t very excited for the convention at the beginning, but I wanted to have a positive attitude. I tried my best to be excited for it, but it just was kind of medicare to me at the time. When I got to the classroom and I finished my first session through, I realized it was actually really fun and interesting, and I learned a lot from the courses I took. The convention was definitely an experience that I want to preserve in my memories,”  junior reporter Connor George said.