High school writers and photographers from across the Rio Grande Valley filled the halls of the College of Arts and Humanities during the fourth Annual Communication Seminar held Sept. 24 at The University of Texas-Pan American.
The seminar, hosted by The Pan American newspaper and the Department of Communication, reaches out to high school students who are actively involved with their school newspaper or yearbook and show an interest in communication. Kristen Cabrera, editor in chief of The Pan American newspaper and UTPA communication major, said the primary purpose of the seminar is to expose students to higher education and possible careers in journalism.
"Most of the students here are juniors and seniors, so we want to start exposing them early, feed their interest and help them realize communication is something they can pursue as a career," Cabrera said. "We also want to give them a feel of college life and give them a glimpse of what the communication department at UTPA has to offer them."
Cabrera said the seminar is modeled after other conferences they have attended, such as those held by Texas Intercollegiate Press Association (TIPA) and Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), where publications such as The Pan American newspaper can submit work before hand for recognition and also have staff participate in on-site competitions.
The communication seminar gave high school students the opportunity to submit articles, page designs, layouts and photographs from their campus newspapers and yearbooks for judging as well as participate in competitions at the event. Students were able to compete in all contests or choose the one that best fit their interests.
Newspapers were judged on design and layout, overall excellence, news writing and feature writing. Yearbooks competed for awards in photography, overall excellence, design and layout and writing; and on-site competitions consisted of three categories: news writing, feature writing and photography.
"We want to get students excited about careers in communications and hands-on experiences and competitions are always fun and definitely more engaging," Cabrera said.
Many students who attended agreed that UTPA and The Pan American newspaper staff provided a great experience for them.
"This exposes us to so many other things we don't learn in school," said Rigo Montoya, a senior at Economedes High School in Edinburg. "This is going to help us get more familiar with publications and make our yearbook better. It will especially help me because this is what I want to do in the future as a career."
Janice Jasso, a senior from Edinburg North High School, said she not only learned a lot of things about communications, but also about UTPA.
"I love the feedback I receive on my photos, this is going to help me improve a lot in my photography," Jasso said. "The experience of meeting new people and sharing ideas is great and meeting a lot of the people from the University's paper has made me realize just how much UTPA has to offer and how many opportunities there are in journalism."
Students at the seminar also had the chance to hear from a professional in the media field. Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor from Al Dia newspaper out of Dallas, spoke to them about his experiences and some key skills he considers important for them to have as journalists.
"There are a lot of opportunities out there for professional journalists," Carbajal said. "It's a matter of being prepared and learning the right set of skills."
Carbajal said he wants students to realize how important it is to have multi-faceted skills that will be useful in print, broadcast, or web and how being bilingual is an advantage.
"Media is changing and it requires a lot of skills from its practitioners, but I hope they can embrace that journalism is a novel expression that provides content that is very useful to people," Carbajal told students. "As a journalist you play an important role in society."