2016 Fall Conference On-the-Spot winners


News writing

1st place Sam Lundry Pl Valley

2nd place Abi Paravasthuramesh Pl Valley

3rd place Rachel Bell Mt Vernon

Honorable mention Prateek Raikwar IC West


1st place Sarah Longmire IC West

2nd place Becca Turnis  CR Washington

3rd place Nick Pryor IC West




News writing — 1st place 

Iowa’s next wave of leaders learn how they can change the world
By Sam Lundry
Pleasant Valley HS

Change is made by those who show up.

Hundreds of students gathered at the University of Iowa’s Memorial Union Wednesday, to hear from entrepreneur Adrian Brambilia and National Yearbook Adviser of the Year Sarah Nichols about what they can do the affect change.

Brambilia opened the Iowa High School Press Association Fall Conference with an uplifting and inspiring life story about his experiences as a n ambitious college student and dancer. He instilled in conference attendees, who hailed from high schools across the state, that impassioned goal-setting and perseverance is essential to a successful and enjoyable career.

“Out of college the only job I could get was working at a call center helping people with their 401Ks,” Brambilia said. He went on to explain his experience founding a non-profit called Dance Saves Lives, where he works with low-income communities to promote dance education. Brambilia also co-owns a marketing firm, fulfilling a dream he had in college.

The keynote speaker for the morning session, Nichols, shared  with students her vision for the next wave of newsroom leaders, which happened to be the title for her approximately 45-minute long presentation.

Nichols spoke on a variety of topics, including new forms of journalism emerging in the 21st century. “The way we tell stories is changing, it’s happening every day,” Nichols told the audience in regards to new media forms like social networks and the emergence of virtual reality platforms.

The accomplished scholastic media educator also shared the importance of leadership and risk-taking, “Every single one of you has the capacity to be a leader because you care, you show up, you’re committed.”

Nichols’ presentation showed many examples of student work from all over the country, and of well-known media outlets like The New York Times.

As an example of risk-taking and “gutsy journalism,” Nichols showed a piece done recently in The Times listing each one of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s social media targets.

“This is what I call ballsy,” she remarked to laughs from the audience.

Most importantly, Nichols instilled in the student-journalists the importance of what they do, and the responsibility they have to their communities and to the world.

She expressed hope for the future and for a group of committed students with the capacity to change the field of journalism, and the world, “The next wave of newsroom leaders serve others, they’re about making a difference in what they do.”

The future is certainly in good hands.




News writing — 2nd place 

Empower. Build. Serve.
By Abi Paravasthuramesh
Pleasant Valley HS

High school journalists across Iowa gathered together, eagerly anticipating the keynote speakers for the 2016 IHSPA Fall Conference.

They were in for an inspiring experience, to say the least. A day of various breakout sessions was kicked off with two presentations.

The crowd was introduced first to Adrian Bambila. YouTuber, Entrepreneur, Dancer, Speaker and Digital Marketer. His respectable achievements were wuickly overshadowed by his genuine passion. Brambila’s story, of going on tour with T-Pain was certainly fascinating, but his perspective on establishing self-confidence to pursue something with innate passion was the most valuable.

“When you dream big at the beginning it’s kind of scary to share that with people.” Brambila walked the students through his story, emphasizing some of the feedback he had received throughout his lifetime. What was the most valuable to him, though, was being able to experience those things that he did. Each experience solidified or repelled him, and knowing what truly makes one happy is the most valuable thing to know.

Brambila instilled into his audience how developing one’s own authentic goals and putting forth effort will always be worth the most. Opportunity is everywhere, and making use of resources is what allows a person to thrive within their passion.

Brambila closed his speech by interacting with some of the students about where they’d want to be in ten years. From being in the FBI to being a pro soccer player, students really took to heart Brambila’s advice about dreaming big and creating value by not giving up.

Continuing on a high note, keynote speaker Sarah Nichols from Northern California discussed the multitude of traits belonging to “the next wave of newsroom leaders.”

Nichols began by questioning the students, making them contemplate the real reason they were attending the conference — whether is was to prepare for college, or be a part of the group, whichever the case, Nichols presented a plethora of advice to the next generation of journalists.

She emphasized the 5 C’s: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and curiosity. Nichols shared heartwarming stories to inspire students to be leaders in the newsroom, and even outside of the newsroom. The skills one learns from telling stories is applicable to any other career in the real world.

So there. Fellow journalists, be bold, proactive, and curious. Take risks, show empathy, and act with intention. Setdowns in life are followed by experiences which never fail to make it worth it.

“Spread the wealth. One you learn how to do something, throw it back into the world.:

The beauty of journalism lies in the freedom it allows. Gather passion and convey the ideas. It’s impossible to tell what it can lead to.



News writing — 3rd place

By Rachel Bell
Mount Vernon HS

Like a well-oiled machine, Adrian Brambila glides across the stage. Each precise motion is met by the cheers of a thrilling crowd. He drops to the ground, and defying gravity, inches his way upright. The audiences’ necks crane each one higher than the one in front of them, just to get a glimpse of the action. So no. The annual 2016 Iowa High School Press Association conference isn’t just some boring presentation.

Aside from his advanced dance moves, Brambila is an avid YouTuber, Entrepreneur, dancer, speaker, and digital marketer. However, in a room bursting at the seams with over 700 high school journalists, it may seem difficult to see how Brambila fits as the opening speaker. That is, until he actually speaks.

Brambila took the audience back ten years, into where his career began. “I can’t do normal things. I have to work harder,” said Brambila. A strong believer in dreaming big, Adrian set out to audition as a backup dancer for T. Pain. “On the surface, outside in, it looked like the dream life,” Brambila said. However, he quickly realized that the scene was full of too many negative opportunities.

“I had it all planned out when I graduated,” said Brambila. Yet life took its own separate road, leaving him in the dust. Little did he know, Adrian’s open mind would lead him on his own path.

“I’ll work my way up, start entry level, get coffee for people, and climb the corporate ladder,” he said. He’d try. He’d fail. But it was his tenacity that brought him to his current career. Today, 27 year old Brambila owns a marketing firm. Through all his up’s and downs it’s quite a surprise that his hair isn’t yet grey. He created a nonprofit organization called “Dance Saves Lives,” which provides dance lessons to those unable to afford them. “I knew everything I did was worth something, and how I’ve created value,” said Brambila.

The lights simmer down on stage as Adrian speaks his last few words. The crowd’s energy has increased ten-fold since arriving and they sit on the edge of their seats, intently listening to his every word. Who said conferences had to be boring?


News writing — Honorable mention

By Prateek Raikwa
Iowa City West HS

“Adrian Brambila,” the letter said. “Unfortunately our company is declining your application.”

Failure. Adrian Brambila and failure were two things that hadn’t gone together in a long time. Now, his career plan to have his very own business was on the fringes, even with the attractive five thousand subscriber YouTube channel inclusion on his resume.

“[Those letters] were a big ego check,” Brambila said. “They were a pivotal point that made me question [my career plans].”

On the surface level, this was a really bad situation for Brambila. Now he had to get a nine to five job to support his basic needs, and he definitely wasn’t satisified with that. Clocking in and out of his new service job may have seemed like something just fine for someone else, but Brambila was determined to figure out a solution.

“[When people are asked] ‘how are you doing today’ they reply [with] ‘Agh, it’s Monday.’” Brambila said. “There’s so much [of a] negative undertone to the meaning [of a response] like the ‘unhappy Monday.’”

Brambila quietly decided that he didn’t want to deal with such negative energy and chose to take an initiative. In his first letters to potential workplaces, the mention of having five thousand YouTube subscribers wasn’t enough. This presented him with the perfect idea and opportunity to improve.

“Every one of [my] dreams could be accomplished but only with determination,” Brambila said.

From there he chose to expand on his subscriber base on YouTube and to improve his dancing skills. Today, he boasts an impressive 75 thousand subscribers and a successful nonprofit organization to benefit young people who would like to dance — a clear improvement on his past credentials.

Now, he would like to inspire other young people to follow his footsteps and to discover their own dreams. Having been an introverted kid that was frequently bullied to having a very successful career, he truly does know how to improve.

“[My success] all started from three things; dreaming big, taking risks, … and believing in [myself],” Brambila said. “It’s scary [to tell people what your goals are], even today people laugh at [what I do] … so I know [how it feels].”

He believes even when you think that your work is the best it can possibly be, there will always be someone to bring you down. In such instances of failure, it’s important to do one thing: take initiative.

“The ball’s in your court,” Brambila said. “[You] have to believe that you can improve, and then [take initiative].”

From what was a seemingly big step back in Brambila’s career, he took it upon himself to improve. Now that he transformed his career, he hopes that after people can do the same.


Photo — 1st place

Sarah Longmire, Iowa City West HS


Photo — 2nd place

Becca Turnis, CR Washington HS


Photo — 3rd place

Nick Pryor, Iowa City West HS