Longtime CSPA friend Don McCaleb passes

Longtime CSPA board member and hall of famer Don McCaleb died April 17 at his grandson’s home in Colorado Springs, near Pike’s Peak.

Don was instrumental in keeping the CSPA afloat in 1981 and 1982 after our founders Ralph and Millie passed away.

He met Ralph when he worked in the public relations department at Cal State Los Angeles and later became the director of public relations at Cal Poly SLO. When Ralph and Mille died within six months of one another in 1981, Don used his influence, savvy and affection for our program to make sure we had a classroom, a dorm and a cafeteria to hold our 1982 workshop.

CSPA Class of 1983
Don McCaleb was instrumental in keeping CSPA going after the passing of founders Ralph and Millie Alexander. In the class of 1983 photo, McCaleb s standing on the far right.

He continued to provide us with a vital connection at Cal Poly, one year at a time. He was also our steward as we navigated Cal Poly’s state government way of doing things and helped us develop the process by which we now run the best high school journalism workshop in the country.

It is not an understatement to say that we might not have been able to keep our workshop going after 1982 without Don’s kind care. It is also likely that the CSPA workshop would have been held somewhere other than Cal Poly SLO after 1982 had it not been for Don’s interest, enthusiasm and heart.

I have difficulty imagining that. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

Along the way, we made Don a CSPA board member. He was a sage and well-respected voice at CSPA board meetings for decades who kept some of us focused on our mission. He was in our inaugural class of the CSPA Hall of Fame.

He also became a close, personal friend who had a fun loving if somewhat sarcastic sense of humor. He was pretty good at 8-ball, liked a clean joke, and always marveled at the energy our students brought with them to the CSPA workshop.

Don was 86 when he died of cancer, Barbara, his loving wife of more than 65 years, told me in her kind letter delivered to my mailbox today. As soon as I saw the return address, I knew that sad news would be in her letter.

Don was born Aug. 23, 1931 in Enid, OK. He graduated from Enid High School in 1950, when he joined the U.S. Air Force. He once worked with Billy Graham Films until he found his dream job at Cal Poly SLO, where he served with distinction from 1962 to 1991. He loved Cal Poly, Mustang sports teams and the university’s learn-by-doing approach to academics.

Barbara said that in addition to the CSPA, Don was also a volunteer with the Kiwanis Club and the San Luis Obispo Blues baseball club.

I had the privilege of chatting with Don by phone a few weeks before he passed away. His voice was strong and his mind was clear as he talked with fondness about the CSPA, and he emphasized that wanted me to pass along his hellos to “the Old Timers.”

He said some of his best memories and some of his best days were hanging out with us and attending board meetings and that he kept abreast of the CSPA through our website.

Barbara said in her letter that a celebration of Don’s life is being planned in Colorado Springs. She said in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Don’s honor to the San Luis Obispo Church of the Nazarene, 3396 Johnson Ave., SLO, 93401, or online at https://www.givingministry.com/g3/.

From CSPA board member Art Aguilar: I can’t begin to express how sad I was to hear the news of Don’s passing. CSPA and many of the long-term friendships we have would not be here if it wasn’t for Don. Our yearly efforts that forged these relationships, built the zealous dedication and sense of purpose that has allowed us to carry on for all these years were possible only because Don championed and protected us at Cal Poly.

Oh how I loved listening to him and Ralph talk sports, joining in when I felt brave enough. We never ran out of conversation.

We’ve lost so many great people in the past few years. But, just like we have done for Ralph and Millie all these many years, we keep them alive through loving memories.
From board member Laura Nelson: I’m so sorry to hear this. The newest generation at CSPA never had the chance to meet him, but we know we wouldn’t be where we are today without him. I hope we can find a way to honor his memory this summer.

From board member Jay Berman: I’m sorry to hear of Don’s passing. You are right. He was incredibly important in keeping the workshop alive at a time when it could have gone under. He worked hard on our behalf as a liaison between the CSPA and the university, helping to keep the costs down. We could use a Don McCaleb in our corner now. He was also a very nice guy. I remember him fondly.

From board member Rich Hammond: I remember Don from our cookout at Cuesta Park when I was a student, and his dedication to CSPA is something that never will be forgotten. It should always be said that the workshop wouldn’t be at Cal Poly today without Don’s support. We’ve all benefitted from his kindness and friendship.

From board member Fred Schoemehl: Very sorry to read this news of Don’s death. A helluva friend to the program.

From board member Jessica Davis: I’m so sorry to hear that Don has passed. His commitment to the workshop is a charge to all of us to keep it going.

From CSPA board chairman Todd Harmonson: Don came to my rescue more times than I can remember during the second week of the workshop. He did it with grace and an eagerness to help and resisted reminding me that I should’ve known that (fill in the blank) needed to be taken care of before the last minute. This is sad news, and I am terribly sorry for Don’s family. But I know the CSPA is better (and, in all likelihood, alive) because of his involvement and care.

From CSPA board member Cam Inman: What a nice, helpful, generous man Don was to us all. I always appreciated our chats, his barbecue exploits and truly his bridge between CSPA and Cal Poly. I’d love to try and help more in any way as a CSPA & CP alumnus.

From board member Steve Harvey: Don’s role in saving the workshop cannot be overstated. I think that’s a good idea to dedicate this year’s board meeting to him. I will miss Don.

From longtime CSPA instructor Mike Daugherty: Condolences to the McCaleb and CSPA families. I remember meeting Don McCaleb in awe at the coaches barbecue as a student at the workshop. He was a tremendous supporter of the workshop. Rest In Peace.

— Larry Welborn
CSPA Chairman Emeritus

The new Kansas High School Journalist of the Year is a CSPA graduate

A 2016 graduate of the California Scholastic Press Association workshop has been named Kansas High School Journalist of the Year and will compete this spring for national honors against other top student journalists from around the country.
Daisy Bolin, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kan., is the fourth CSPA graduate in the past four years to win Journalist of the Year honors at the state level.
Bolin was one of the top students at the 2016 workshop and won the Millie Alexander Award for all-around excellence. She is the head copy editor for her high school publication, The Harbinger.
The three most recent National High School Journalists of the Year are CSPA alumni. Meghan Bobrowsky and Kellen Browning of California won in 2017 and 2016, respectively, and Julia Poe of Kansas won in 2015.
Bobrowsky and Browning are expected to be counselors at this year’s workshop, which will be held for a 67th consecutive year on the campus of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
The workshop will run from July 8-20 and applications are open.

Our alumni: Where are they now?

Since the 1950s, hundreds of CSPA graduates have gone on to great careers in journalism, public relations and other fields that require analytical thinking, strong writing and clear communication.

Here’s what our recent and more veteran alumni have gone on to do.

Our recent graduates

Julia Poe

Julia Poe

CSPA class: 2014 
University of Southern California
Experience: 2015 National High School Journalist of the Year; Daily Trojan sports editor; intern with the Philadelphia Inquirer and USA-Today Wisconsin

“I doubt I would have had half the success I’ve had so far without the mentors and skills I gained from the workshop. I’ve gained a wide set of friends and contacts in the journalism community, particularly in California, that have helped me.

This truly is a family, and those who join are lucky to have a support system for life.”

Kellen Browning

kellenCSPA class: 2015
School: Pomona College
Experience: 2016 National High School Journalist of the Year; intern with Kaiser Health News at the Sacramento Bee and reporter for the Davis Enterprise

“During my two weeks in San Luis Obispo, I learned that journalism is thriving and is more important than ever.

Being surrounded by 25 eager young reporters and professional instructors was electrifying. I’ve never lost the passion for journalism I found at CSPA.

I had so much fun learning how to cover breaking news, delving into public records, podcasting and shooting photos that I’ve returned twice as a counselor. I just can’t stay away. There’s nothing more fun to do with your summer.”

Gwen Wu

Gwen Wu

CSPA class: 2013
University of California Santa Barbara
Experience: Editor-in-chief of The Bottom Line, UCSB’s weekly student newspaper; intern with San Francisco magazine and TakePart.com

“CSPA was the first place I’d ever been where I was surrounded by people who dearly loved journalism.

It was wonderful learning from real reporters who taught you about the intricacies of the trade and who actually had faith that I could survive the industry.”

Meghan Bobrowsky


CSPA class: 2016
Scripps College
Experience: 2017 National High School Journalist of the Year; Video editor of The Student Life at the Claremont Colleges; video editor at Global Student Square

“The breaking news simulations were similar to assignments that working journalists have every day, including the short deadlines, limited information and sudden, unexpected events.

CSPA made me realize that I want to keep telling stories for the rest of my life.”

Tyler Pager

Tyler Pager

Workshop year: 2011
School: Graduate student at Oxford University, degree from Northwestern University
Experience: Intern with the New York Times, USA Today, Boston Globe and Politico; editor-in-chief of the Daily Northwestern

“CSPA was the first intensive journalism program that I had done, and it provided me with a pathway to achieve my goals.

The workshop is ideal for anyone who knows they want to go into journalism. It sets up a really strong foundation for a future in journalism or any career in which you need strong communication skills.”

Fatima Ali

Fatima Ali 2Workshop year: 2015
School: University of San Francisco
Experience: Beauty Editor at the Tempest, District Office Intern for State Assemblyman Phil Ting 

“CSPA helped me understand what it takes to be a journalist, and strengthened my reporting, writing and communication skills.

Each course was taught by an incredible instructor with established experience in the industry.

It was an unforgettable and enriching experience.”

Karan Ology

15965208_866219040184802_8890318566601708842_nWorkshop year: 2016
School: University of Southern California
Experience: News Editor at the Daily Trojan; intern at the San Mateo Daily Journal

“High school journalism is a poor reflection of what professional reporting looks like. CSPA provides that fast-paced, deadline-heavy experience through classes on every type of reporting and with real-world applications.

But beyond the journalism skills, CSPA provided a community. The counselors and instructors are my role models and mentors who continue to support me.  My best and closest friends are people I met at the workshop.

A few of our alumni in the industry


Amy Schellenbaum

Workshop year: 2010
Current Position: Online Director for Popular Science
School: University of Connecticut

“CSPA gave me a feel for what it was like to be a working journalist. I experienced harsh deadlines and challenges that took me miles away from my comfort zone. It gave me an adrenaline high for two weeks straight.

I learned about the aspects of journalism beyond storytelling—things I ended up loving. It’s not just about getting the narrative; it’s high-stakes problem solving, quick-thinking, and asking the right questions.

The most incredible thing, though, was hearing from a group of successful journalists who believe (without a hint of reluctance or suspicion) in the value and vitality of the profession. They were so inspiring, so dedicated, and so good at what they do. I wanted to be like them. I still do.”


Eric Coleman

CSPA class: 1980
Current position: News Editor at Bloomberg News
School: Northwestern University

“My path into journalism started with an introduction by my older brother, Paul, to the cub journalism class at our high school. This class was taught by the great teacher and CSPA mentor Gil Chesterton.

Gil taught us both the basics and guided us on the weekly school newspaper. He led us into write-off competitions and awards and, a couple years apart, the CSPA workshop. It was as rigorous and rewarding a program as you could imagine.

I’ve made my career in business and financial news, and I’m still doing what I love today, thanks to my brother and those early years under Gil and the CSPA.”


Paige Cornwell

CSPA class: 2008
Current position: Seattle Times reporter
School: University of Nebraska

“CSPA gave me a real glimpse into the day-to-day life of a journalist, and exposed me to different types of journalism opportunities.

All the news aspects of the workshop, I use every single day. The workshop also gave me lifelong friends.”


Ariel Wesler

CSPA class: 2003
Current position: News Anchor, The Now San Diego
School: University of Southern California

“CSPA taught me the fundamentals early to succeed in this crazy business.

From writing under pressure to working as a group, it’s a fun boot camp for aspiring journalists.”

Saba Hamedy

Workshop year: 2008
Current Position: Politics reporter for CNN, co-author of “The Point” newsletter
School: Boston University

Going to CSPA was the best decision I made as a high school student. It helped me hone my journalism skills at the age of 17, and also prepared me to be editor-in-chief of my high school paper. The workshop also solidified my passion for journalism. You also learn from the best of the best in the industry. The skills the instructors teach you help position you for college, even if you don’t end up pursuing journalism.

Most importantly: The workshop gave me another family of mentors and lifelong friends. I cherish my memories as a student, a counselor and now an instructor.

Matt Hanlon

Matt Hanlon

CSPA class: 2008
Current position: Cinematographer at Threaded Films
School: University of Oregon

“After my experience at CSPA, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. Those life-changing two weeks made a huge impact on me, and were a big reason that I nabbed an internship the following summer at my local paper, applied to journalism school and ultimately became a video journalist and filmmaker.

The skills I learned at the workshop that are so crucial to good reporting and journalism have also helped me as a documentary filmmaker and visual storyteller. I really can’t stress enough how important CSPA is. It gives you the chance to immerse yourself in journalism and learn from some of the best in the industry.

I’ve made many lifelong friends through CSPA. Some have gone on to great careers in journalism, and many others are succeeding in other industries. Regardless of whether you decide to be a journalist, you’ll develop really useful skills, and make lifelong professional connections and friends.”

jessie-geoffray-headshotJessie Geoffray

Workshop year: 2010
Current Position: Assistant Editor, Goop.com
School: Northwestern University

“CSPA helped me determine whether I wanted to pursue reporting and editing as part of my college education, and ultimately, as a career.

Being a CSPA alum firmly cements my status as a journalism nerd, which I’m pretty proud of. It’s definitely the best decision I made when I was 16.”


Update: Applications closed for the 67th-annual CSPA Workshop

Update: Applications for the 2018 workshop have now closed. Students interested in the 2019 workshop can apply starting in January 2019. Would you like to be notified when the 2019 application cycle opens? If so, add your name to the mailing list at http://bit.ly/cspa-mail.

Apply NowThe California Scholastic Press Association will hold its 67th-annual high school journalism workshop on the campus of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, from July 8-20, 2018.

Tuition, which includes 13 days of instruction, all meals, an on-campus dorm room and transportation to all workshop activities, is $1,475. Need-based financial aid is available, and no money is due until acceptance to the workshop. The application deadline is Sunday, April 15 at 11:59 p.m.

The CSPA Workshop is the longest-running and most successful high school journalism workshop in the country. Our graduates have gone on to work for the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, Forbes, The Associated Press, ESPN, CBS, Fox and other nationally recognized media outlets.

Each summer, 25 students are selected to receive hands-on instruction in the areas of print, broadcast, online and photojournalism, plus classes in ethics, public records and more. They will tour the local newspaper office and television station and enjoy an afternoon at the beach.

Our students work under intense deadlines but also thrive and improve under the direction of our all-volunteer staff of instructors, and they get a taste of college life and make lifelong friends.

The application is now available at https://cspa.formstack.com/forms/cspa_workshop_application.

Want to know more about the workshop? Click here for a rundown of our curriculum and some of our notable classes and instructors.

CSPA welcomes 24 graduates to family

20228891_10156458574004867_71697993206348033_nAfter 13 days of writing, photography, broadcasting and social media, 24 talented journalists completed the 66th-annual CSPA Journalism Workshop on the campus of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

The program ended July 21 with a graduation ceremony that included CSPA instructors and counselors, Cal Poly staff and, most importantly, our new graduates and their family members.

Graduates completed an intense workshop that focused on the fundamentals of journalism but also went into areas such as podcasting and Twitter. CSPA students completed 35 assignments and they produced a four-page newspaper and their own news broadcast.

Hala Ozgur of Irvine High received the Ralph and Millie Alexander Award, given to a student who displayed all-around excellence at the workshop, both in and out of the classroom.

Valentina Martinez of Flintridge Prep High received the Stan Kelton Award, given to a student who best embodied the spirit of the workshop.

A third, and newly created, award, in honor of longtime CSPA instructor and board member Gil Chesterton, was given to Sophie Haber of Harvard-Westlake High, in recognition of her dedication to excellence in student journalism, including publications.

Alex Wong of Los Altos High finished with the most points in all workshop assignments. Hala Ozgur finished second, followed by Rachel Carlson (Marlborough High), Sophie Haber, Tori Fong (Aragon High) and Abbey Zhu (Newark Academy).

The CSPA wishes all of its new graduates well, and hopes for their continued success in journalism. The last three winners of the JEA High School Journalist of the Year award are CSPA graduates: Julia Poe (2015), Kellen Browning (2016) and Meghan Bobrowsky (2017). Browning and Bobrowsky worked as counselors at this year’s workshop.

Dates and tuition for the 2018 CSPA Workshop are expected to be announced in October.

CSPA mourns passing of instructor Gil Chesterton

Gil ChestertonA memorial service was held June 24 in honor of Gil Chesterton, the legendary journalism adviser and longtime member of the California Scholastic Press Association, who died May 18.

Chesterton, a dedicated family man, also loved journalism. He worked as an editor for a weekly newspaper in Bell Gardens and advised the newspaper at Whittier High, but made his name during a 33-year run at Beverly Hills High.

Not only did Chesterton oversee the school’s weekly, award-winning newspaper, but he also guided students’ work on the yearbook and on a weekly newscast.

Last year, the Journalism Education Association chose Chesterton as one of 10 recipients of its Lifetime Achievement Award. The JEA award is given to longtime advisers “for lifetime dedication to journalism education,” and that certainly described Chesterton.

During his youth, Chesterton participated in Ralph Alexander’s Scholastic Sports Association program, then remained active when the SSA transitioned into the California Scholastic Press Association.

Every summer, Chesterton volunteered his time, and formally became one of CSPA’s primary leaders after Alexander’s death in 1981. As part of his work, Chesterton advised workshop students as they produced the CSPA Reporter newspaper, which chronicled each workshop, and also taught page design and critiqued student publications.

Chesterton, elected to the CSPA Hall of Fame in 2008, chose to retire from teaching at the workshop in 2014 but remained a valued member of CSPA’s board of directions.

Chesterton’s family, including his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Carey, have requested that donations in Gil’s name should be made to CSPA, which will use the money to assist future workshop students. Donations can be made at http://www.cspaworkshop.org.