PHS students tell their stories

Published 11:04 am Friday, September 27, 2013

Pelham High School literary magazine staff and writers at the ASPA Fall Convention at the University of Alabama. (Contributed)

Pelham High School literary magazine staff and writers at the ASPA Fall Convention at the University of Alabama. (Contributed)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

PHS writers and literary magazine staffers attended the Alabama Scholastic Press Association fall convention at the University of Alabama in September.

ASPA Executive Director Meredith Cummings is also a UA journalism professor, so the training sessions she coordinates for the students provide a taste of college media classes. A writer herself, Cummings knows what motivates writers and students interested in the multiple art forms necessary to create student publications.

“The best session was ‘Why Does Your Story Matter?’ I knew the speaker, but I had no idea he was on the cover of Time,” said PHS Junior Kaitlin Van Dorsten. The speaker was PHS alum Victor Cuicahua.

A University of Alabama scholarship student, Cuicahua connected powerfully.

“Out of all the speakers I heard, Victor was the most confident and captivating. That’s surprising, because he’s only 21. As a Pelham alum, he was easier for me to relate to,” said senior Mattingly Dramer.

Cuicahua, a leader working for undocumented student rights, made such an impact on my students that I wanted them to see the Time cover he graced. I also found a Youtube clip of Cuicahua speaking at a rally. Sharing the cover and the clip at school drove home the point that Cuicahua journeyed from a PHS classroom to the cover of a major magazine.

“What Victor explained was great,” Junior Nevada Naylor said. “Victor said that showing emotion and telling your own individual story sets you apart.”

“When Victor finished, he had me come up and share my story in the session—that was an amazing experience,” Van Dorsten said.

PHS freshman Katherine Owens enjoyed a brainstorming session.

“The presenter stressed how important it is to have bad ideas—because those bad ideas can lead to great ideas,” Owens said.

“My favorite class was ‘Collaboration,’” said AP Art student and creative writer Zach Powell. “We learned how to use art to create poetry.”

Enjoying the sparks that the ASPA fall convention presenters ignited in my students, I’m excited to hear my students tell their stories this school year.