With new co-op air time, students can shine

Alisha Jucevic/The Herald
Northeast Dubois High School junior Blake Ziegler, left, and Forest Park High School junior Aaron Welp practiced lines before recording their first production package during the radio and TV media class on Thursday morning at Jasper High School.


JASPER — One of them could be the next Walter Cronkite. The next Barbara Walters. Or maybe they’ll be the brains behind the scenes — the cameramen and women and sound engineers that will help tell the stories that will change the world.

But without Evan Elrod’s area-wide high school radio and TV class, kids at local schools lacking the programs might never have had the chance.

Thursday, students in the co-op course — which is housed in Jasper High School — uploaded their first broadcast-style news show to YouTube. Dubbed “Patoka Valley Spotlight,” the program aims to shine a light on the area by compiling hard news clips and feature stories from the students’ schools. The group also plans on launching its online radio presence today.

This is the first year for the cross-school media course that accepts students from all establishments that are part of the Patoka Valley Career and Technical Cooperative.

“This is the first time I’ve done anything with this kind of technologically advanced stuff,” said Blake Ziegler, a junior at Northeast Dubois High School.

None of the schools in the co-op have student media departments that are as fully fleshed-out as the one at Jasper, which boasts a radio broadcasting room, green screen, a slew of cameras, and Apple iMac computers outfitted with industry-level software for sound and video editing.

Over the past five years, Jasper has increased the reach and scale of media programs specific to its students, including the growth of 24-hour, in-house radio station 93.7 The Scratch and the addition of in-school news broadcast program Wildcat Weekly.

But after just a semester of learning how to use the equipment and computer programs, Ziegler is already considering attending Ball State University or the University of Southern Indiana to earn a degree in sports media.

“(This class) helps me get my feet wet, and not a lot of classes are like this one,” he said. “Especially for this field, you get ahead in the ball game compared to other people.”

Forest Park High School senior Yolanda Kempf agreed and encouraged interested students at any of the co-op’s schools to try it out.

“I would tell them if this is something you want to do in your future, definitely take this class,” she said. “It’ll help you out a lot. Plus it’s just really fun.”

All four Dubois County high schools are tied into the co-op with Heritage Hills, Pike Central and Wood Memorial. The six students currently enrolled in the cooperative media class attend Forest Park Junior-Senior High School and Northeast Dubois High School.

All of them have some interest in pursuing a career in the media industry after they graduate. But even if they didn’t, Elrod said the course can still be valuable because it works out different parts of their brains.

“Sometimes I don’t think (students) think with their minds enough,” Elrod said. “We’re so good at preparing test-takers now. We’re rigorous on ISTEP and things like that, and we have these kids that are good at memorization or good at figuring out different things. But sometimes that creative aspect of life is lost I think.”

The class structure changes with the ebb and flow of the students’ ability to pick up concepts and techniques, but they have generally completed a project that is rooted in film or audio production each week throughout the school year.

Short films. Commercials for both tv and radio. All preparing them for yesterday’s first program wrap-up.

Just before the inaugural filming of the anchor segments, Ziegler joked that he was Ron Burgundy.

He walked in front of the green screen draped on the wall in the digital temple, honed in on the teleprompter, and with a Will Ferrell-esque swagger, delivered the day’s news.

His teacher watched proudly. He’s a radio junkie and worked in the field — typically as a broadcast engineer — for more than 15 years before landing his full-time gig at Jasper. He knows the way kids consume media is changing. But he wants his students to know that they can lead the way.

“I always tell them, ‘Do you want to be the guys or girls laughing at the YouTube videos, snapchats, and instagram (posts), or do you want to be the ones making them?’” Elrod said. “I think that if there’s one thing I can say that they’ve left with, it’s that creativity and maybe responsibility.”

Elrod hopes they can put out a new edition of Patoka Valley Spotlight weekly, with online radio broadcasts becoming a daily practice for the students.

“Spotlight” segments can be viewed at patokavalleyspotlight.org. Radio broadcasts will be streamed on RevRadio.online.

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