“Stars Align” for Cavaliers Conquering Journalism at FSPA 2023


Talah Pharaon

After a tiring four hour drive from Gables to the Wyndham Resort, Cavaliers were happy to stretch their legs. Students were greeted with various booths where they could grab stylish pins, pens and stickers or consult professionals about possible careers paths.

Allowing students from all across the state to show off their creativity and knowledge of journalism, the Florida Scholastic Press Association convention is held yearly at the Wyndham Resort in Orlando, Fla. FSPA is an organization whose main goal is to instruct, mentor and assist scholastic journalists and their advisors, encouraging scholastic journalism state-wide. Through competitions and workshops over the course of three days, this convention provides resources for student journalists to further their interests and challenge themselves in specific areas.

Day 1

Once all participating schools arrived at the convention center around 2 p.m., when the opening ceremony began. President of the FSPA board Joanie Webster gave a grand speech and kept spirits high by announcing a handful of Best of the Best award winners. Gables’ attending journalists were thrilled to hear that one of CavsConnect’s very own editors, Emmanuelle Desmet, took home Best of the Best in the Quick Turn Written Commentary section.

After waiting eagerly for what felt like hours, Gables’ section erupted as CavsConnect claimed Best-of-the-Best in Quick Turn Written Commentary. Overcome with joy, CavConnect’s opinion editor, Emmanuelle Desmet, shows off her award. (Talah Pharaon)

NBC News legend, Kerry Sanders, joined Webster in the spotlight as the keynote speaker of the event to discuss his journey as a journalist and its impact on his life. Sanders shared stories from the vast journeys he has faced while reporting and gave insight into finding the right topics to write about, highlighting the importance of chasing stories that interest each individual. Overwhelmed with emotion, Sanders took a video of the inspiring crowd of young journalists. While capturing that heartwarming moment, Sanders said, “I know that, in this crowd, we have the future generation of journalism in America.” 

As soon as the opening session was over, On The Spotcontest prompts were announced on the event’s website, pushing students from every publication to immediately get to work. The amount of time given to complete the project varied depending on the prompt, with some student journalists being given as little as two hours and 30 minutes to complete their tasks. Students submitted their competitions once finished and waited anxiously until the last day to receive the results.

Although the main focus of the event was to explore journalistic careers and participate in exhilarating competitions, Cavaliers did not forget to take much needed breaks and bond with fellow students. During their free time, publication members indulged in ice cream from the nearby Cold Stone and participated in intense games of Uno.

“This was my first time at FSPA so I did not really know what to expect, but overall I really enjoyed it. I did have fun on the first day, but I was really stressed because I had two assignments to do and I was not sure if I would finish them on time, but in the end this whole experience just prepared me for what is to come in the future,” freshman Gabriella Roa said.

Day 2

After a day of racing to shoot videos, capture pictures and compose articles, Gables’ journalists had a refreshing break. Just a short walk from the hotel, Cavaliers arrived at Cold Stone, where they enjoyed delicious ice cream and bonded over fun card games. (Samira Martinez)

Prior to heading back to the Wyndham convention center for their morning lectures, Cavaliers were treated to croissants and bagels, courtesy of the publication sponsors. An hour later, designated speakers awaited the young journalists in makeshift classrooms to give them lessons in their respective fields and provide them with tips and tricks to use in the news world. Classes like “Photo Composition 101” by Dr. Ivy Ashe and “The Power of Social Media for All” by Danny Sanchez gave students a deep dive into the concept and opportunity to have any of their questions related to the topic answered. These sessions went on until 4 p.m., after which the students were allowed to return to their rooms with about two hours to get ready for the banquet, a renowned FSPA tradition.

Gathered outside the ballroom, students and teachers arrived in their finest outfits fitting this year’s “Stars Align” theme. All schools in attendance were assigned a few tables to accommodate the number of people they brought with them. As soon as everyone was seated, Webster and FSPA Evaluations Coordinator Joe Humphrey announced the award-winning publications as well as the Journalist of the Year award. Student district representatives stood at the foot of the stage to hand each recipient their award.

Yearbook advisor, Mrs. Zuniga excitedly cheers alongside publication members after Gables’ Cavaleon becomes one of ten yearbooks crowned All-Florida. (Samira Martinez)

Once the award ceremony was over, fresh lasagna was served for dinner, accompanied by a slice of chocolate cake. As the guests finished eating and headed out of the ballroom, employees began transforming the dining hall into a large dance floor. High schoolers and their advisors were admitted to the dance, with middle schoolers attending a separate event. DJs got everyone up on their feet, shouting the lyrics to the songs at the top of their lungs, a way for everyone to bid farewell to the convention.

“I loved when we got a chance to break away from the whole convention environment and stressful competitions at the big dance towards the end of day two. Everyone forgets that they’re all against each other in a way and that this is a competition because we all become friends and enjoyed ourselves,” junior Gabriela Blanco said.

Day 3

The next morning, students made sure their bags were packed, heading to the ballroom one last time to watch the winning film and find out who won the “On The Spot” competitions from the first day of the convention. Gables took home yet another best of the best, as CavsTv’s Matthew Castano dominated the special effects illustration category. Although everyone was feeling a little under the weather, still recovering from the previous night’s dance, they spent their last few minutes on convention grounds showing pride in their publications’ wins with their spirit and energy.

“Having all of the Gables publications all together in one place was really nice, especially since we wore matching outfits representing the school. It was cool seeing the amount of other kids from other schools’ publications, it makes me happy knowing that so many other people our age like journalism too,” sophomore Caitlyn Savage said.

Sharing mutual interests for journalism, these Cavaliers not only made new friends but also shared memories of this unforgettable weekend. With the support of their school’s publication, students from CavsConnect, CavsTV, Highlights, Catharsis and Cavaleon furthered their bond as classmates and shared a one of a kind, first hand experience in the journalism world.