Haven Yearbook, Panther Press, and Jabberwocky staff members traveled to Temple University on Friday, October 21 for the Pennsylvania School Press Association Regional Student Journalism Competition.
Students spent the day competing in photography, copywriting, caption writing, and literary magazine competitions, and participating in presentations and tours of the Klein College of Communications.
We will learn how our students did in their competitions later this fall. PSPA provides detailed critiques to every participant. The top-ranked entries in each category will qualify for the state finals at Penn State University in the spring.
Read our team’s reflections on the day below.
Evelynn Lin '25
I think the PSPA Regionals at Temple was one of the most fun and educational field trips I’ve ever been on. There was always something cool to learn and see, from hearing from college students to checking out a TV studio and radio station and eating food truck food.
The day started off with me almost losing all my fingers and toes to the bitter cold, while we were all waiting for the bus to pick us up to take us to Temple. I genuinely wished the 7Up truck that had pulled into the cafeteria loading dock was our ride because it was that cold out. It was such a relief when we saw the school bus pull up.
When we arrived at Temple a good 40 or 45 minutes later, we kind of struggled to find where we were supposed to be. The building we were in had a lot of rooms, pretty big in itself, and it wasn’t even half of the actual Temple campus. We found the room (everyone else was already there), and we spent most of our time before intro speeches checking out and admiring other schools’ (including Temple’s) newspapers. There was even breakfast food, and I swear I was going in to get a bagel but left with the sweetest pastry there was.
The competition was much less nerve-wracking than I thought, especially because we got to sit wherever we wanted, and our Haven group sat together. It made me a lot more comfortable, despite the one hour time to finish our section of the competition. I surprised myself by finishing with five minutes to spare. We all congratulated and celebrated with each other when we finally finished.
After, we all got to tour Temple’s journalism facilities, like the newsroom, media school, and radio station. I found it very interesting to hear from college students about their experiences and advice for us high schoolers.
Ms. Plows afterward let us roam around and check out the food trucks as a group. My fried fish wrap was so yummy, the strawberry latte even yummier. We were all having a good time and enjoying our food if my eyes weren’t deceiving me.
The ride back to school was the most chill of them all, especially when a majority of us, myself included, took a bit of a nap. It had been an exhausting but incredibly fun day.
Overall, this experience was definitely worth all the work I now have to make up in school, and I’d do it all over again. Spending the day with other Haven peers and making memories with them will always be a big highlight of this trip for me. Even if I don’t make states for yearbook captioning, I’m proud of the creative captions I made, and I won’t ever forget this opportunity I got to have.
Charlotte Horetsky '24
Waiting for the bus to arrive and take us to Temple, the whole team shivered in the crisp morning air and described their frozen fingers to each other, after a 7 Up truck parked by the dumpsters. The PSPA regionals of Fall 2022 returned to being held at a local college, as Covid restrictions further loosened, compared to last year, when regional submissions were sent from the individual, partaking schools themselves.
Being able to compete in the PSPA competition, by traveling to another college, is an opportunity that I have been fortunate enough to experience twice now. Traveling to Penn State in the Spring of 2022 was such an invaluable trip that I decided to enter again this year.
Unlike Penn State, Ms. Plows did not drive a van-bus— much to her evident relief.
Instead, two buses were available to transport us to and from the school.
As the bus arrived on Temple’s campus, my numb and cold fingers had just finished thawing. The morning was spent reading other schools’ publications, as the competitors checked in, listening to several speakers, and the competition itself. We also participated in a tour of several of Temple’s journalism facilities, such as the publications lab, radio station, and television broadcast room.
After the tours, the event was officially over, and Ms. Plows, in giving us some freedom, sent us off as a group, with the directions to stay together, as we picked out our lunches from the food trucks.
The Fall Special Quesadilla that I chose was delicious and, as far as I know, the rest of the team was content with their food, as well.
On the trip back to the school, almost everyone rested or slept– relaxing after the, at times, exhausting and overwhelming, yet enjoyable, day.
For several moments, as I watched the scenery pass by the window, I thought about the day and blog post. I remembered writing captions, without pictures, which was something I had never done before, sitting sideways in one of the room’s armchairs, while my foot fell asleep as I wrote the second caption, the pleasant surprise on Ms. Plows’s and another Haven student’s face when they unexpectedly spotted each other in a crowd, as well as all of the other moments that comprised the day at Temple. There was no particular moment that was my absolute favorite– it was all incredible and worth the time commitment.
Hopefully, the PSPA tournament will continue to be a valued opportunity for future Haven student journalists. Even if I do not manage to make it to States for Yearbook Caption writing, I am still grateful for the day and ability to participate in the event.
Julia Gray '23
Attending PSPA was a lot of fun, participating in the Feature Writing competition was my favorite part.
The day started off with a bit of a rough start (our school bus was running a bit late), but our excitement for the day ahead distracted us.
When we arrived at Temple, we checked out “The Spoke,” another school newspaper, and Temple’s paper. It was really cool to see a college newspaper, especially one that my Dad, who used to be an editor for, raved about.
The competition itself was really fantastic. I had never written an article like that before. Being presented with quotes and background information made it feel puzzle-like. It felt relaxed, and I liked sitting with everyone from Haven, listening to music in my earbuds. My pre-competition dance definitely got some of my nerves out.
Seeing Temple’s communications building got me really excited about college. I especially enjoyed seeing the newsroom. It reminded me that, as student journalists, our work is essential. It seemed like their paper really made an impact.
Of course, I can’t forget about the food trucks. I felt a bit like a mother goose herding my ducklings around Philidelphia, but honestly, it really let me connect with everyone.
After we finished our food from said food trucks, we headed home. Both Matt and I promptly fell asleep on the bus (I think there are pictures of that somewhere?), which I take as evidence of a busy + fun day.
Jillian Thomas '24
My experience at the PSPA Regional competition was rewarding, educational, and also really fun. It was really exciting being able to compete against other schools in a fairly intimate environment, but still feel like there were a lot of diverse viewpoints and such.
We waited in the freezing cold for a while because the bus ended up being kind of late, but we spent the bus ride having lovely conversations about articles we were writing and stuff like that.
Once we got there, we ran into a little bit of an issue finding the place where check-in was happening, and all the other schools were already there (oops). They let us mingle, and then they gave us a presentation on journalism and talked a little about the journalism opportunities at Temple. I thought the speakers were really good and charismatic and I was able to pay attention even though I was really nervous about the competition.
Then, they had us go into the main room and they gave us all envelopes with prompts and paper in them. They told us we could use our phone and electronics, which was strange but a good thing, and then they started the timer: we had an hour to write an article of the genre we were competing in.
After the competition had finished, we were able to go to the newsroom and meet the editor-in-chief and we heard about the newspaper at Temple. It was really interesting hearing the editor talk about all the opportunities he’s had. After that, our school and another school went to see the radio station room, and they were on air, which was also really cool.
Then we were able to get a tour of the communications and media school, and we got to see their TV studios and hear about their services, which was interesting even though I am not planning on going into communications.
Finally, we were able to get lunch at the food trucks—it was really delicious—and then we got back on the bus to go home (the bus was late again). A lot of us just slept because the whole thing was kind of exhausting.
10/10 would do again, though.
Imogen Sharif '23
Honestly, I was really nervous about the PSPA competition. I don’t plan on becoming a journalist, I am way more interested in STEM and specifically biology, but joined the Panther Press to teach myself new skills and improve my writing.
The entire day was really fun, being with my friends and cracking jokes before the competition. The bus ride over was filled with conversations, we had delicious bagels before the speakers, and my nervousness was turning more into excitement.
The actual competition itself was very relaxed. I was given my manilla folder filled with blank sheet paper, a prompt sheet, and a grading sheet. We were able to use our phones too! My headphones were playing Tchaikovsky and I was so ready to get into writing.
My hour to write went by so quickly! It was actually so much fun to just sit and write along with everyone else, and I felt pleasantly surprised by my performance. I felt so grateful to be amongst my friends, which definitely made me more relaxed and helped me write.
Afterward, our tour of Temple was wonderful. We saw the school newspaper’s office space, the radio rooms, and the TV station. I was able to see so many different kinds of media production and journalism within an hour or so. It was really amazing.
In our short time between the tour and leaving, my peers and I sought out the Temple food trucks, from which I got the most succulent, delicious, and downright sinful burrito. Not only did I have an outstanding tour at Temple, but I experienced true love for the first time (the burrito).
As soon as I sat on the bus ride home, I was instantly tired. My day was so fun and so busy I felt like I could take the fattest nap imaginable. Everyone else felt the same, we all plugged ourselves into our music, curled up in our seats, and roughed the bumpy Philadelphia streets as we came back to Strath Haven.
I’m so excited to hear back from PSPA about the results, even if I don’t win. My experience was unbelievably worthwhile, and I think KP and my friends made it so much better. I think my writing will definitely improve over time, but I already feel more confident in my skills and techniques.
I wish I did this earlier than my senior year! I hope more people go next year!! Haven Sweeps!!!
Matthew Chen '23
At the beginning of the event, there were two speakers (professors at Temple) who gave a brief introduction about their career in journalism. I thought it was interesting how they both emphasized that they never thought they would end up in academia. It made me wonder if there really is a need for journalists if they ended up teaching instead of actually reporting in the field.
Because I participated in the News Photography contest I actually had no work to do when the writers were competing. I got to talk for a bit with profesor George Miller who teaches journalism; one of his classes was a photojournalism class, where he would take the class to shoot an event live and then come back as a group to discuss. I thought it was pretty similar to the class style of photography classes at Strath Haven.
The most notable moments from the tour for me was visiting the broadcasting room and radio room (WHIP). The tour really showed how much journalism and media was present on campus.
The editor in chief of Temple News explained how covering events is critical. The actual system of building the newspaper is really bureaucratic—there are paid editors and writers who produce content consistently as well as freelance reporters.
Kaitlin Ho '26
It was October 21, 2022, and absolutely freezing.
We waited for the bus outside of the high school, and students leisurely walking by seemed content to enjoy the brisk air, since they had the comfort of knowing that in only a few seconds, they would be safe within the warmth of the school.
Such a comfort was not applicable to our situation.
Thankfully, the bus came (at least fifteen minutes late, but arrived nonetheless) and we were off to Temple University. I had never done a competition like this before, and I was a bit nervous on the ride there. Of the ten people on that bus, the only one I had exchanged more three sentences with was Ms. Plows.
Despite this, all of the other Strath Haven students were very wonderful to everyone throughout the entirety of the day, including me, which did help a lot with the nerves.
I learned a lot about both through this trip. Not only was it informative, but I also had a lot of fun exploring Temple University and its campus. We were able to see their radio and newspaper offices. There were speakers and students that gave incredibly helpful advice about journalism and getting involved in college.
The competition was low-pressure and I actually enjoyed the process of writing with such an hour-long deadline. The competition required me to think on my feet, and I believe I became a better writer from it. Unfortunately, I forgot to put a headline on my piece, but it’s alright since I know to do so in the future.
The best part was spending the day with the other Panther Press students, who were all extremely talented, but also kind.
Overall, I’m really glad that I came on this trip. It was super enjoyable!
Leah Gonzalez-Diaz '24
When I first heard about the opportunity to be able to go to PSPA’s student journalism competition, I was pumped. I’m not sure why, but I never really thought about the fact that being an Editor-in-Chief of a literary & art magazine might bring me some interesting opportunities outside of school!
The combination of my specialty being in neither journalism nor writing meant that a lot of the trip, catered to journalism students, didn’t apply to me. However, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it regardless.
At the competition space in Temple, while waiting with a bagel and apple juice in hand, I found Temple’s last copy of their magazine 14th Street left on the table. I eagerly snatched it, and skimming through the pages and inspired by the amazing graphic design, I stashed it for later to use as inspiration for this year’s Jabberwocky.
After some speakers presented, mainly talking about journalism, it was time for the contest to begin. We were able to sit down wherever we wanted in a comfy room, and all of us Haven kids sat together. Soon we were given folders with our assignments.
My task- create a piece of artwork to accompany a poem in a fictional school’s lit and art magazine. I had an hour.
Compared to the PSATs, I have to say, I was glad to have what I considered to be a relaxing hour of drawing time. Although, I could tell that the poor writers around me were fairly stressed in that time period…
Given the constraints, I wasn’t able to create a masterpiece, but with my pencil and the piece of lined paper I was given, I was fairly proud of what I had.
We then got a tour of Temple’s Klein College of Media & Communications, which was super interesting, and I really enjoyed seeing their spaces like the media lab and their radio tower! We even got to see people hosting a live show and a newsroom.
Finally, the best part of the day—we wrapped up by going to some food trucks. Then back to school we went!
Nuala McHugh '23
I scarfed down the last bites of my stale everything bagel to quell the uneasiness in my stomach and took my seat behind the desk, gripping my pencil shakily in my hand. My writing process had always been slow and steady, drawn out over a period of weeks, but I felt like I was up to a challenge.
When Ms. Plows told me that I would have a prompt and an hour to create a poem, I was more eager than anything to see what I could make despite the constraints. When I write, I find it way too easy to get lost in my own head. I fell into a rhythm, aimlessly bobbing my head along with my music, jotting down any ideas that popped into my head. It caught me by total surprise when I was told I only had twenty minutes left, leaving me with nothing but a ticking clock and pages packed with scribbles. I felt an adrenaline rush only matched by racing to beat an essay deadline, and began rapidly pulling together lines into stanzas.
In a frenzied rush, I was able to finish, and was greeted to an immediate sense of relief and satisfaction. The time and theme constraints posed a unique challenge that I was initially nervous about, but in retrospect, I am grateful that I was able to put my skills to the test in a scenario I would have never experienced otherwise.
Afterwards, we were able to tour Temple’s campus, which was so lovely and full of smiling faces! My favorite part was the radio broadcasting area. Of course, while on the tour, I had to treat myself to a chicken avocado wrap as a little reward for the day’s efforts.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen Colin, who advises The Flash at Franklin Learning Center, that I don’t recognize him. I greet him with a bear hug, which is my habit with people I like and respect so much. His twins, who were not even an idea when we first met, are now five.
I met Colin when we sat at the same table in the back of the library at Columbia University, eating catered lunch and watching a procession of award-winning journalism teachers on stage. My students were somewhere on campus, hopefully attending CSPA sessions. He attended on his own to learn what the prestigious organization was about.
Our schools were very different, but the stories we whispered were remarkably similar—not enough time or resources to train students; lack of professional development to support our own learning; censorship; and struggles to balance our commitments.
We watched as Crown-level advisers were called up to stage to shake hands with Columbia dignitaries. We shook our heads in wonder and bemusement.
The journalism education community is small and tight at best; insular at its worst. So, last Friday, as Colin and I exchanged some small talk to catch up as best we could on our schools, students, and publications, the background of our small meeting rooms at Temple University came into sharp focus.
It was the Philadelphia region’s student journalism competition (SJC). Pennsylvania School Press Association membership has been free since the pandemic started, and it cost only $12 per student to participate in the SJC. And there were five schools in attendance.
Of course, it was great to see students from those other schools, and meet a few advisers—especially some new folks replacing legends who stepped down or retired over the last few years. The general vibe of the day was wonderful: enthusiastic students, intriguing contests, Temple staffers who were proud and eager to share their campus with us, transportation that was delightfully on time. I’m very proud of my own student team for their positive and responsible behavior, especially when I set them loose on the food trucks.
But I’m disappointed that there were only five schools from the Philadelphia region who participated. I know that more schools than this have newspapers. Most if not all schools have yearbooks. Plenty of schools have the sort of journalism class that I’d love to teach which supports and feeds into those publications.
In a few weeks, a group of my club yearbook and newspaper students and I will travel to St. Louis, Missouri for the National High School Journalism Convention. It’s a stretch for us, but I’ve sold them hard on the sort of event that was such a transformative experience for my previous students. I checked the roster today; we’re one of two schools from Pennsylvania that are attending. The other school is sending only the adviser, not students.
At this convention, there’s going to be a celebration of the ‘Pacemaker 100.’ “NSPA proudly recognizes its top 100 publications as it launches its centennial celebration,” the website announces. My students and I are going to St. Louis with a mission to collect as many of these Pacemaker samples as we can. Their heads (and maybe their hearts) are going to explode as they see what’s possible in schools where journalism and media literacy are vital to student life.
But why are so many of these schools in California, Texas, and Kansas? Why are we throwing a party to celebrate the top 100, when there are so few schools nationwide where journalism programs are really thriving instead of squeezed into after-school and weekend clubs? And when there are 1,400+ high schools in Pennsylvania, why are there fewer than 100 member schools in PSPA, even when membership is free?
Colin’s students at FLC have reported on asbestos in their building, teacher turnover, and lead in the school district’s water. He told me that all of their publication work takes place after school, although he does teach a journalism class. Their documentary work won a regional student Emmy.
I want to believe that this sort of impactful student journalism is taking place in more than five schools in the Philadelphia area, more than 100 schools in Pennsylvania, and more than the century of schools that NSPA is celebrating. If journalism is going to have a future in our country, we need it to be thriving in ALL our schools—not just the ones that have crazy advisers willing to put in 20+ hours a week beyond the school days.
Student journalism shouldn’t be extra— it should be essential.