Linden High School senior Haidy Abdelmonem working in the TV/Digital Media class at the Academy of Science and Technology. The program, with about 125 students, produces a weekly news show and various other video projects for Linden High School.
By Gary Miller
Inside Linden High School’s Academy of Science and Technology is the Linden Public Schools’ media hub – a TV studio that produces a weekly news show and teaches students real-life technical skills for the 21st century media landscape.
And along the way, everyone tries to have a little fun.
Those are the keys for the Linden High School TV/digital media classes, which produce the weekly school news and various other video projects for school organizations.
The classes are taught by Chris Paskewich, but the work is done by the students, both on camera and behind the scenes.
“It’s all hands-on,” said Paskewich, who is in his fifth year teaching in Linden and heading the TV production program. “I’m not one to lecture, ‘This is how you use a camera.’ I let the kids actually pick up a camera and produce videos. That’s the way I learned and I feel that’s the best way to learn.”
Among the highlights for the students is an annual trip to NBC headquarters in New York, where they tour various studios, check out the equipment, and create a “Tonight Show”-style talk show. Last year, as a bonus, they got to see the backing performers for Chance the Rapper rehearsing for “Saturday Night Live.”
The TV/Digital Media program is holding a fundraiser this Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Blaze Pizza in Clark to help pay for the trip to NBC. For anyone who shows the group’s flier, part of their bill will be donated to the TV/Digital Media program and DECA, the school’s student business organization. A similar fundraiser will be held next Wednesday at Chipotle in Clark for the two student organizations.
The TV program is divided into two levels. TV 1 is the entry-level half-year class where students learn the basics of taking camera shots and editing video. TV 2/3 is for students in the 2nd and 3rd years of the program. They produce the weekly news show, and film the Board of Education meeting, concerts and other special events.
“Students in the TV/Digital Media class are vital to the culture of LHS,” said Principal Yelena Horre. “Our weekly student-produced show is viewed every Friday during homeroom and is highly anticipated by students and staff alike. Through the efforts of these talented students, events, activities and community service outreach are communicated and the voice of LHS is heard.”
The news shows, available on Schooltube.com, aim to inform students, but in a fun way that keeps the creators and the viewers engaged. The students know not to go too far.
“We try to keep it professional when we do the school news,” said senior Kareem Issa. “We don’t try to be a clown on it. Even though we try to make the school look fun, we don’t want to give a bad impression because it’s public. We don’t want to make the school look bad.”
Issa is a rarity in the program; it is his fourth year in the three-year program.
“Since I enjoyed this class so much, I talked to guidance and got to do a fourth year,” said Issa, who now helps Mr. Paskewich in teaching the others students. “I help show the other kids how to film, how to edit, how the news show gets done, how our production gets done.
“I like showing people new things, and even though I’m teaching someone, I’m still learning.
The program, which has about 125 students through the year including 20 in the advanced class, instills a team atmosphere, with students pitching in wherever needed – hosting, editing, shooting video, working the teleprompter.
“The students are great,” Paskewich said. “They’re totally involved and it seems like they always have fun. It’s just a great program, and I have fun being here and doing this.
“I think this is a very valuable program, because this is a field for the future. And I’m using all equipment that’s used in the field, from Final Cut Pro editing software to the cameras we use. So I give them real-life experience.”
Ludmila Muntian, a junior in the advanced class, was attracted to the program because she likes watching Buzzfeed videos. But as she got involved, she learned more aspects to TV and video production.
“When I started, I would just sit there and let other people do things for me,” she said. “But I learned from people, and the experience, and Mr. P taught me things. It’s a team thing.
“I think a lot of people should take this class. It’s a great experience and it’s not super difficult as long as you pay attention and learn to use the tools.”
Justin La Pierre is a senior, who is just starting out in the intro class.
“Doing the news show was a good experience because it got me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “All this is new to me. At first I didn’t know how to feel, I was really nervous, because I’ve never been on camera with someone recording me. But it feels good now. I like it.”
Some of the projects the class was working on this week include a promo for the school’s homecoming dance featuring football players and cheerleaders, and a Halloween special modeled on the blockbuster movie “It.” Last year’s Halloween special featured one of the program’s news anchors being kidnapped – a project some students listed as among their favorites.
The classes use gear that equals the equipment used by professions – preparing students for what comes after high school.
“I know kids who have taken this and done movies on their own or started little businesses on their own who went through Linden High School,” Paskewich said. “And I always hear from them, saying ‘I learned a lot from your program.’
“This is something that you can take here and use for the rest of your life.”