Day 1 – Thursday

On Thursday, April 16, VISTAj kicked off the first day of the 2015 Denver National High School Journalism Convention.

The convention started with what is called pre-convention workshops, which are a variety of learning sessions taking place between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Staff member Conner Davis and copy editor Tara O’Gorman attended the Advanced InDesign and Photoshop Workflow sessions, where they better learned to use the Adobe programs.

Going to a workshop that taught me about how to be successful and efficient in Photoshop was extremely useful. The instructor was a professor from University of Austin, and he had a great nine step program that not only can make any photo look considerably better, but also only takes a few minutes with some practice. Having a better grasp on how to use the tools of Photoshop can improve anyone’s photos on a large scale.

—Conner Davis

Conner notes taken during the sessions he attended

Co-editor-in-chief Gabe Rodriguez and newsmagazine editors Reagan Fitzke and Tyler Kraft attended the session, Team Storytelling. The team had to go outside into the snowy weather of Denver in search of a story, in which they had to write a story for within a certain time frame. The team’s work can be found below:TeamStorytelling_Page_1TeamStorytelling_Page_2

This was my personal second time doing a Team Storytelling session, and I think this time was a bit more engaging. For this session, Tyler, Reagan and I discussed finding a story about the homeless population, especially because it was snowing and the weather was brutal. So, we first decided to go find a homeless shelter, to which was only mildly successful.

There, we attempted to see if we could talk to an employee, which didn’t quite fulfill our expectations, as we only received a phone number to call. We did however get to speak with one of the former attendants of the shelter who had recently been “kicked out.”

While we only briefly talked to her, it was interesting to see her perspective and hear her story. Her name was Patricia. She was homeless and said she had the responsibility of taking care of four grandkids. She said that she found sanctity at the shelter one day but they abruptly told her shortly afterward that she had to leave without an explicit explanation.

We then proceeded to interview two other homeless men, who talked a lot about their experiences, which ended up being the subject of our story.

We decided to design a rather dramatic magazine spread and overall, it was a really interesting experience that gave a lot of perspective of life outside of Highlands Ranch.

—Gabe Rodriguez

Website editor Francesco Viola III attended a seminar on in-depth legal training for student journalists. He learned how to combat censorship and about the rights of the press.

Learning more about the laws and rights of students and people in general was an extremely beneficial experience. It’s useful to be able to argue a point from a legal perspective in addition to a practical one.

– Francesco Viola III

After the pre-convention workshops, VISTAj attended the convention’s opening ceremony and keynote speaker presentation.


CHSPA Executive Director Jack Kennedy raises his fist when singing his original song about the First Amendment.


Colorado High School Press Association Executive Director Jack Kennedy eased the crowd with an original acapella song about the First Amendment.


VISTAj alumni Taylor Blatchford gives her speech in front of more than 3,000 convention attendants.


This performance was followed by a speech from former VISTAj editor-in-chief and 2014 High School Student Journalist of the Year Taylor Blatchford.

The night ended with keynote speakers Joanna Bean, Michael Ciaglo and Dave Phillips, who are Pulitzer Prize winners who covered military veterans for the Gazette. VISTAj members took a lot out of the interactive discussion with these three journalists.


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