FCHS puts students on camera, behind the scenes
by Riley Hicks
When Jamey Trask first decided to help coach the Fayette County High School football team, he never imagined it eventually would lead him down a whole new road. What started as putting together highlight tapes for football players helped Trask find a passion for teaching video technology and broadcasting to his Tigers.
Back in 2008, the broadcasting program had to be cut due to the struggling economy. Even their space disappeared as the ROTC program moved in and transformed the classroom into their training area, but the idea of a need for a broadcasting class never went away. As the school system’s belt tightening started to loosen, Principal Dr. Dan Lane thought the timing was ripe to bring the program back.
“With our connection close to Pinewood and the interest in film and video, I couldn’t see, especially since we had a wonderful facility that was a broadcasting studio here, why we would not have that program,” Lane said.
Dr. Lane tasked Trask with rebuilding the broadcasting program in 2013 essentially from scratch and with very little funding to invest in equipment. It all started back in a small math classroom with just a plan to film the morning announcements. With such limited resources, students had to split the operation between completely different rooms.
For the equipment, a camera and green screen were all that was given to build the program back up. Trask took it upon himself to find more equipment by acquiring old items and refurbishing them to almost brand new. As interest among the student body picked back up, the program returned to its original space, the ROTC area, where it continued to expand from there.
“This is really good for the school,” Trask said. “We are promoting what we are doing here in the school in front of everybody and we are putting stuff on our [school] website.”
Trask wanted to give his students the best possible learning experience, so when opportunities arrived at his door step, he never let them slip away. One of those opportunities came by simply filling out a survey for a grant from ESC Networks. Trask happened to be the first teacher to apply for the grant, which solidified him as the recipient. In winning this grant, Trask received two cameras, a computer, and decoder. The news spread to the other county schools what FCHS had accumulated, and they were able to purchase the same equipment for their schools. Two years later, ESC Networks wanted to promote its next phase of equipment so it awarded a second grant to FCHS.
The students have played a huge role in advancing the program by submitting their work and winning competitions. A former Tiger baseball player, Miles Berry, participated last year in SkillsUSA and produced a video for the contest, winning two more cameras and tripods for his class.
“All the other stuff we got was basically because I have kids that do great work,” Trask said. “We have just been real fortunate. I have been pushing the kids to do things and it has just worked out for us.”
Having new equipment available even helped save graduation a couple of years ago. After heavy rains forced the schools to scramble and relocate festivities into their gyms, they needed a way to show the ceremonies to friends and family who couldn’t squeeze inside. Sharing their expertise, Trask and his students were able to help every school broadcast graduation via live stream in the individual classrooms.
“It’s really morphed into something even more than what I had originally envisioned,” Lane said.
The original idea was to only do morning broadcast, but now they have the ability to do public service announcements, work with the video screen at the football stadium, and host live streams.
Students can work their way up the ladder, whether it’s a level one class focusing on the basics of audio and video or progressing to the broadcasting class, which allows the students to film and produce “The Morning Roar,” the school’s morning announcements.
Taking just one of these classes gives a new set of skills that students can further pursue in college or when they join the workforce. They get to learn what it takes to really string together a full video production. At the same time, the students have the chance to truly express themselves in whatever fashion they choose.
“What really interested me was being able to experience my creative side because with this program we can find time for skits and humor,” Princeton Henry said. “You get to see all your hard work amount to so much.”
Trask’s classes play into the newer model of learning, helping students who might not as driven in math, science, and english to find their passion. Students who never previously imagined themselves working in film or television can instead see what the industry has to offer while learning .
“In the past, we worked on being college or career ready. Now, it’s college and career ready. That little conjunction in the middle changes the face of what we’re doing in high schools,” said Lane. “Yes, we want kids to be college ready, but we also want them to have skills that they can use.
“Even if they’re going to college full-time, they could work part-time at a TV station, or they could do things on the side and start their own business.”
A big reason the program has been successful for Fayette County is that they hired a teacher that presents his students with numerous opportunities to better their skill assets. Trask found his passion for audio and video, and his hope is to pass on his knowledge to his kids and whatever they decide to do with it is their choice.
“He has given us some free reign to really see what we like about it and to make it our own style and really take responsibility for our own work,” Rachel Gomes said. “He will give us a project but give us free reign on how we want to do it with limited guidelines.”
The program has forged a connection with numerous people in the film industry, which has in turn opened up different learning opportunities for the students. Trask has found actors and production workers to speak to the students about their experience in the field. In a short amount of time, the program has seen tremendous successes. Having started from scratch, it has now positioned itself among the best the county has to offer when it comes to technology. Trask and Lane turned a dream into reality in just a few years. It should continue to grow and be considered a top elective for upcoming students. For Lane, it is a skill that students can take with them after their senior year.
“It teaches kids skills that they can take with them beyond Fayette County High School,” Lane said. “They not only graduated with a Fayette County diploma, they graduated with something else in their hand, with a skill that they could take into the world of work immediately, whether or not they chose to go on to college. This gives them hands-on, on-the-job experience to be able to move into the world of work.”