From learning something new, to making close friendships and tearful goodbyes, the California Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) was a friendly and eye-opening experience. I attended their 72nd workshop, held at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with 14 other people from July 9 – 21.
CSPA, formerly an all-boys sports writing training program, is now a non-profit high school journalism summer program. Its teachers are all journalists, most of whom are CSPA alumni, who aim to help students improve their writing skills. The instructors came from places like the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, and more, which prompted us to ask questions to learn about being a professional journalist.
My experience with this program was remarkable, through all the memories I made and skills I developed. Learning so many types of journalism was a welcoming experience over the summer, and I truly enjoyed my time there, especially with the people I was in the program with.
Our group was genuinely close with each other. We connected from the first day and bonded over stories about journalism, or random things like movies and shows. Nearly everyone was from all over California, with a couple from New Jersey, Michigan and Washington. The people were incredibly supportive, and we quickly formed a tight-knit group.
Throughout our five daily classes at CSPA, we learned different things, from public relations to broadcasting, allowing me to learn something new every hour and a half in each class.
In each course, we had an assignment about the topics such as entertainment or tech writing, and though it was intense, it truly helped me become better as a writer. The assignments at CSPA were highly interactive, with instructors engaging in role plays portraying different people that were both real and fictional.
The assignments were fast-paced, as we usually had around 45 minutes to write an entire article, but it was exciting to be in crunch time. Though it was difficult, the instructors put comments inside each project to help guide us on what to improve and how to be more concise.
For example, accessing public records was one of the assignments I struggled with the most since we had to be specific to obtain the information to write the article. I also initially reported misinformation in my article due to false information hiding in the records, which I discovered after receiving feedback from the instructor.
One of my favorite articles, however, was an article about earthquakes I wrote because it displayed my progress throughout the program. It was one of the most engaging stories I had reported on, as the interviews and stories were so fun and details were surprising.
Throughout the program, we stayed at Fremont Hall, where we had time to relax and sleep. Aside from offering valuable advice on schools and colleges, the counselors, all CSPA graduates, also actively participated in activities organized by the instructors for assignments. We even went on field trips to the beach and the farmers market to get some relaxation from all the assignments and hard work we did as a gift from CSPA.
On the final day, it was upsetting to leave the program that meant so much to the group and the CSPA family. In our last moments at Fremont Hall, we shed some tears and laughed at some of the memories we shared or recalled. We wrote notes to remember each other and promised to keep in touch through the group chat we made.
This program was incredible and wouldn’t have been what it is today without the director, Todd Harmonson, who helped prepare for the summer with Rich Hammond. Hammond also played a crucial role in managing the schedules and working with Cal-Poly to host the program at such a fantastic venue. Before the program started, Nicole Vargas and Gwendolyn Wu were the stars in answering all our emails and being the go-to contact point. Their efforts made this whole experience possible and unforgettable.
I would recommend this program to anyone wanting to learn journalism, improve their writing or try something new for a change. This program truly is an eye-opening experience, and I believe that CSPA’s commitment is incredible and will be able to foster future generations of journalists to come.