Scholarship winners from Sequoia heading to JEA/NSPA anxious to learn

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

Carmen Vescia, Matvari Maharaj and Sabrina Villanueva-Avalos are all first-year staffers on the newspaper at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Calif.

When their adviser, Kim Vinh, told them about the opportunity to apply for scholarships that would cover the registration fees and possibly allow them to attend next week’s JEA/NSPA Spring National Scholastic Journalism Convention in San Francisco, there was no hesitation.

“I really wanted to go to the convention, but it wasn’t really in my budget,” said Villanueva-Avalos. “(The scholarship) is a really good opportunity. I knew it was a really great option.”

An option that Villanueva-Avalos and her classmates have taken advantage of. All three of the Sequoia staffers earned the scholarships through Walsworth’s 50 Scholars program with the NSPA and JEA, and now they’ll get their first trip to a national journalism convention next week.

Vescia said the Sequoia staff is a tight-knit group that expects to have fun on the San Francisco trip. At the same time, the chance to meet other student journalists from all over the country is the part of the experience she’s most looking forward to.

“Learning from my peers is something I’m really excited about,” said Vescia. “Too often, I think people pass up the chance to learn from people their own age. I think it will be great to get the chance to learn from other student journalists.”

Villanueva-Avalos said there might be a little bit of awe being in the huge crowd of the national convention, but the chance to spend three days totally immersed in writing, editing, design and photography was going to be well worth it.

“It’s going to be a really different experience than we’re used to,” said Villanueva-Avalos. “We’re used to being around our own little staff, but this is just the chance to do journalism all day, every day while we’re there. I want to be a journalist, so it’s an experience I’m looking forward to.”

Maharaj said her goals for the week were very straightforward. The newspaper and news writing were something new she tried out this year, and she wants to simply keep getting better.

“I’m more of a creative writing person, but I’m up for any type of writing,” said Maharaj. “I do hope to start feeling more comfortable with journalistic, news-style writing. I’m still trying to learn AP style, learn what’s a good quote, what’s a bad quote.”

Evan Blackwell, CJE
Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is a Web Content Specialist for walsworthyearbooks.com and yearbookhelp.com, as well as a regular contributor to Idea File magazine. He's been a writer and editor for Walsworth Yearbooks for the past 13 years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.