Last week, I drove clear across Pennsylvania to meet with the NPPA student chapter at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. I had spoken with the chapter’s faculty advisor and longtime NPPA Member Chris Rolinson at the Northern Short Course back in the spring about speaking to the group this fall. When I accepted the position of NPPA’s Mid-Atlantic Chair, one of my goals was to go to student chapters in the region and talk with the next generation of photojournalists. I’m a HUGE proponent of mentoring those that are coming up the path behind you and showing them the proverbial roadmap of what lies ahead.
I was warmly greeted by chapter President Nikole Kost and Vice President Gracey Evans and they were soon joined by more than 20 students for our town hall at PPU’s state-of-the-art Center of Media Innovation.
During my lecture, I spoke about what it means to be a part of NPPA, the benefits of being a member and what NPPA means to me. But we also spoke about life and the choices they’ll be making.
For the freshman, it was about the road ahead. For seniors, we talked about what’s waiting for them on the other side of the diploma.
The night was filled with education, but more importantly, laughter and finding the craziness in life lessons along the road we travel.
For me, the best part came during the hour and a half after we finished the scheduled meeting. In a small area outside the classroom, a group of 10 or so students peppered me with questions about the life they were choosing. They were candid, to the point and well thought out. I was beyond impressed.
It would later seem that one student in particular, a freshman named Kelsee McHugh, had a life-changing realization during our talk. Here’s an excerpt from her email:
“I'll be honest. I was a bit wary of being an art major. So I decided to play it ‘safe’ and declare my major as advertising and PR. After finding myself in an advertising and PR class consisting of upperclassman and not really enjoying it, I quickly realized that this was not my calling.
I went to the first meeting of NPPA two weeks ago, and from the moment I found myself feeling jealous from listening to other photographers discuss their majors and assignments, I knew that's where I belonged.
I feel there's a reason for everything that happens in life and from hearing you speak, it really opened my eyes to what I should be doing because life is too short to be spending your time on something you're not really enjoying.
So I just wanted to thank you for helping me realize that and to be the final push for me to change my major to photojournalism (I was on the fence about it prior to your presentation).”
Thank you Kelsee. You made the nine hours of driving back and forth totally worth it.
If you have a student chapter in your area you’d like to have a guest speaker, get ahold of your regional chair or associate chair. If you want to start a student chapter, check this guide for how to organize a student chapter. You can apply for a student chapter here. If you have questions, contact Melissa Lyttle at 813-215-8329 or [email protected]