The Department of Communication at Waynesburg University hosted its 5th annual Knox Writing Contest, Saturday, Oct. 27.
The contest is open to high school students in grades 10-12 within 14 counties in the tri-state area each year and features monetary prizes for placing.
Sponsored by the Observer-Reporter in Waynesburg, the contest included a press conference, where nine participants take notes and gather quotes from a speaker before participating in an hour-long writing session to complete an article on the conference.
Judges are evaluating the articles to pick a first, second and third place winner. The first-place winner will receive $500, second place will receive $300 and third place will receive $200.
After the writing portion of contest was over, students had the opportunity to eat a free meal at the cafeteria and go on an optional tour of the university.
The press conference speaker was Melinda Roeder-Skrbin, instructor of communication. Roader-Skrbin has worked in broadcast journalism for over 20 years, covering major events such as the inaugurations of presidents, criminal executions, major hurricanes and three super bowls. She currently serves as a national scholarship committee chair for The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and reports on KDKA Radio, along with her instructing position.
Richard Krause, chair for the department of communication said he believes Roader-Skrbin was an excellent choice for the interview subject due to the experience she has in her field.
“She has had some really fascinating and interesting life experiences that [was] absolutely perfect for these students,” Krause said.
Roader-Skrbin said she loved talking to the students and answering their questions.
“It’s always eye-opening to see what kind of questions they have,” she said. “I hope the students go into the field, but I hope they do it for all the right reasons.”
Roader-Skrbin brought pictures of activities to show the students as well as one of the Emmy Awards she received during her career.
In response to one of the students’ questions, she replied, “As a journalist, we often meet with people on the best or worst day of their lives.”
Sarah Bell, technical adviser for The Yellow Jacket and the Society of Professional Journalists student chapter, coordinated the event. She said the contest helps high school students to step out of their comfort zone and gain hands-on experience.
“It’s a good opportunity for the high school students to learn about journalism and get hands-on experience with interviewing and writing to deadline,” Bell said. “It’s also a great opportunity to get more students on campus to see what Waynesburg University has to offer.”
Many of the students who attended the competition hailed from Freedom Area Senior High School in Freedom, Pennsylvania. Aaron Fitzpatrick, teacher and advisor for print and broadcast extracurricular activities at the high school, encourages his students to participate in the competition each year since Waynesburg started it.
“It seemed like a great opportunity for my student journalists to get involved with a program on the next level,” Fitzpatrick said. “The [students] who have been here see the value in it.”