2,700 enrolled attendees gather at JEA, NSPA “Stories Elevated” conference Approximately 43 states present at convention

About 2,700 enrolled attendees gathered at the 2015 JEA and NSPA "Stories Elevated" convention in Denver Colo. Although online registration for the convention has ended, interested individuals may report to the on-site registration booth to register. "The conferences are such a huge turnout and always so much fun," NSPA Office Assistant Julia Bauer said.
Photo Credit: Jen Chiang

Article contributed by Nikki Marie Molina and Acel Soriano.

Approximately 2,700 enrolled attendees from across the country traveled to Denver, Colo., to participate in the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) “Stories Elevated” convention. The convention functions from April 16-19 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.

“The number of attendees for each of our conferences are pretty comparable. At our conference in the fall, there were over 5,000 enrolled attendees. We have 2,700 enrolled attendees for this conference but we feel great about our numbers,” NSPA Office Assistant Julia Bauer said.

The journey from home to the convention involves a number of activities—fundraising, sponsorships, collecting donations, working long hours and more. With consideration to the convention registration fee, cost of the hotel, transportation and other expenses, attending this convention demands both time and money.

“When I was a former adviser of a tiny school, my students had to earn the money to attend these conferences and summer workshops. They worked to pay for their own trip, which caused their learning experience to be different because they invested in their experience,” Marketing and Education Specialist of Balfour Publishing Marilyn Scoggins said.

At approximately $90-110 dollars, the convention registration fee covers the cost of the individual’s entrance to the conference, workshops and more. Also, the conference rate to stay at the hotel is $169 dollars per night.

“The occupancy rate right now is at 98% and the higher the occupancy, the higher the price is weighed. When we have conventions like these, sometimes the price goes up to as high as $349 dollars,” Front Desk Agent at the Sheraton Sara Lemieux said.

For in-state attendees participating in the convention, traveling from home to the convention was more convenient. Deciding not to stay overnight at the convention location lessened the overall cost of the trip.

“We aren’t allowed to fundraise, so paying for the trip was a combination of my teacher budget and their money. Since we’re in the area, we aren’t staying overnight. So the hotel cost was not a problem,” Yearbook adviser at Highlands Ranch High School Gina Cobdell said.

On the other hand, the accumulated cost for an out-of-state staff to attend the convention can be devastatingly large, causing many publications to seek donations from generous sponsors to contribute.

“Since we go to a large school, selling sponsorships is a requirement for the class. If you sell more than what you have to, the money goes towards your trip. I couldn’t afford it, so I sold $1,000 dollars worth of sponsorships and only had to pay $100 dollars,” Santa Rosa High School student Ashlee Ruggels said.

Although the total cost to attend the convention may seem overwhelming, setting a fundraising goal has helped numerous staffs from across the country attend the convention.

“Our adviser set a goal of $2,000 at the beginning of the year and we started fundraising as early as Sept. We did a lot of bake sales and it was very time consuming but we got all 13 of us here,” Venice High School student Joseph Medina said.

For students who are strongly recognized for their work, the cost to attend the convention can be completely paid for by a professional individual.

“I won the Illinois “Journalist of the Year” so the school board paid my way to get here—I am the only student from my school attending the convention,” Hinsdale South High School student Ashley Yong said.

Finally, students who paid for their own trip worked more hours to earn the money.

“We were all responsible for paying for ourselves so I saved up my money from my job. The hours were crazy, but it was all worth it in the end since I made it here,” East High School student Hayden Setlik said.