Five members of the Achona staff and their adviser Mrs. Edie LeBas received the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Silver Crown Award at closing ceremonies on Friday, March 22, at Columbia University. This award distinguishes the online newspaper as one of the top 10 scholastic digital publications in the country.
On Thursday, the day before the awards, the group presented at two consecutive sessions in Hamilton Hall on the Columbia campus to students and advisers across the country. The first session, titled “What We Learned at Poynter,” featured an introduction by Mrs. LeBas on rapid changes in online newspaper journalism over the last nine years. Assisted on the computer by senior Alexandra Gerecke, senior Caroline de Quesada demonstrated how Achona has adapted to these changes in its start-up over the last two years. She especially focused on the incorporation of social media to engage Academy audiences.
The second presentation by junior KeTaira Phillips, titled “Always Under Construction,” included a feature on the Golden Veins creative writing and art section. She also explained the different apps used on the iPad for producing these works. Also during this presentation, Sophomore Rachel Anderson and junior Samantha Vargas presented examples of how staff members collaborate in writing and publishing stories and media, with a look at a recent Storify on the economy.
Both sessions were interactive and invited members of the audience to share how they have built their newspaper sites and increased their audience. Achona staff members learned from their audience while sharing what they have learned. They asked staff members from WRHS Media to show how they do live video streams with commentary at sports events that the staff later embeds on the newspaper site for later viewing.
Chaperoning the staff were Mrs. LeBas, yearbook adviser Sr. Lisa Perkowski, and parents Mrs. Terri Gerecke and Mrs. Liz de Quesada. The staff was invited to a tour of exhibits at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art late Thursday afternoon, hosted by Assistant Development Director for the museum, Kasey Sherrick, A’05 alum. The staff was treated to dinner one night by Mrs. de Quesada and another night by the Academy Dad’s Club. On Wednesday evening the group attended the Broadway hit musical Newsies in keeping with the journalism theme of the trip.
CSPA Conference organizer Ms. Rebecca Castillo has invited the staff to present at next year’s CSPA Conference.