Students Lead the Action at ORCTV

In case you haven’t heard, the Old Rochester Community Television has been producing much more than TV programming for your town’s community access channel. In fact, production at ORCTV these days is just as significant inside our communities’ schools in the form of education as it is in our living rooms in the form of information and entertainment. And while it’s true that the revolution will not be televised, it’s only because the revolution is what’s going on behind the cameras at ORCTV and the Tri-Town schools where TV production education isthe revolution.

The educational offerings that have resulted so far from a collaboration between ORCTV staff and Tri-Town school educators has been just that – revolutionary as far as the quality and scope of the knowledge and experience interested students have received.

“It’s almost like a college-level video production course,” said ORCTV Station Director Rob Chiarito. “We’ve established a program at Old Colony this past year, which started out as an after-school program and that went so well that it’s become part of the curriculum and it’s going to become a class this year.”

Actually, there are three branches to this new ORCTV-school partnership, with an evolving TV and film production presence now established at Old Colony, Old Rochester Regional High School, and the Tri-Town elementary schools where younger students are being exposed to TV production starting with the basics and advancing as far as their interests take them.

Two years ago, ORCTV discontinued its annual grant to ORR for a TV production program at the high school and took over the program itself. Instead of offering two high school elective classes each with 30 students, ORCTV diverted the funding into investing in a program with the School-to-Career program, offering serious TV production and TV journalism students an intensive educational experience, internship, and advancement, said Chiarito. “In any given class of 30 kids in a class, maybe five really wanted to be there. We’ve taken those kids and we’ve given them a really intensive television production experience.”

Last year saw an enormous influx in high school ORCTV programming, with ORR students producing hundreds of programs including a weekly news program and a weekly program featuring principal Mike Devoll.

“We also gave them the opportunity to work on programs of their own making,” said Chiarito. “They came up with game shows and a variety of different things in that vain.” And as for recording school sports events, concerts, general school events, and presentations, “We finally had enough hands to go out and do these things.”

ORCTV also formed an outreach coordinator position to work with Old Colony and the elementary schools to establish new programs at all the schools, passing out cameras and hoping that something would take root.

“Most of the [grant] money used to go primarily just to the [ORR] high school class,” Chiarito said. “Now we’ve got seven schools that are being covered.”

At first, Chiarito and his team weren’t sure how many students would express interest in the new programs. The outreach coordinator, Brittany Hotte, managed to pique the interest of some 300 students in the Tri-Town elementary schools during the first couple months since she started in January 2018.

“It was just like sending the pied piper out,” said Chiarito. “She got so many kids in involved.” Chiarito was hoping for maybe eight to 10 students per school. “She was having 30 to 40 show up for her workshops.”

In these workshops, students were trained in camera techniques and editing, “And we’re getting a lot more stuff all over the district now, giving us a leg up, too,” said Chiarito, “because these kids are starting third, fourth grade and being introduced to TV production. By the time they get through elementary and junior high, then we at ORCTV have a much larger pool of kids.

“We’ve made a big, big investment,” continued Chiarito.

Over at Sippican School, with the help of enrichment teacher Chelsey Lawrence, the program is set up for the fall as a sixth-grade Tuesday “lunch bunch,” “which is very exciting,” said Hotte. “We’ve got all the plans for that week-to-week. We will be doing a weekly news show for Sippican. … I’m really looking forward to that.”

Hotte said she hopes this junior reporter program can be established at Rochester Memorial and Old Hammondtown, as well, and is ironing out the details with each school, as each school is different, she said, with its own unique needs. Halfway through the spring, Hotte said she went to RMS to train a student news team, “Which was really, really fun.” And just like at Sippican, Hotte wants to see a lunch bunch develop and incorporate some higher-level editing education for students to produce school TV programming, as well as personal programming.

“All of the kids seem to be very excited about it,” said Hotte. “Some interested in personal use, many of them have YouTube channels, there are a whole bunch of kids who are very interested in working on team projects, and I think those are the kids who are going to be the best fit for this program.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Hotte. “It’s been a really nice thing for me to go back and teach kids from the school system I went to how to use cameras and how to make that into a viable career.”

At Old Colony, the TV production program began with 45 minutes after school once a week – this year these students can take an actual class, thanks to a new partnership with technology teacher Marsha Davenport, the sponsor of the after-school club.

“Old Colony is one of our super exciting programs,” said Hotte. It started last January, with a small closet space about six feet wide, said Hotte, and with a couple of cameras.

The students were instructed in Final Cut Pro editing software, “And they took off with it,” said Hotte. Old Colony TV programs started popping up all over ORCTV, with student-driven shows with their own scripts, a weekly news show with its own news desk – courtesy of the carpentry students, and new modular programming.

“And it was a trial run for the most part,” Hotte said. “We are really, really excited for this upcoming semester now,” especially with a much larger space, allowing for expanded cameras, angles, a new audio mixer, and new lights. “It’s gonna be really nice,” said Hotte, “and we are hoping to attract new people.”

ORCTV Studio Manager Codie Patnaude took the lead at ORR’s School-to-Career program starting in January, offering a more in-depth and structured program to the students Patnaude described as “well-adjusted” and “good to go on their own.”

Patnaude said she provides mentoring for the interns, especially with editing techniques, but the students are already executing their own programs and creative projects, to her delight.

The students go to ORCTV’s studio located at ORR for their Bulldog Blocks, “And during their time we try to train them at the college level,” said Patnaude, who started with two dedicated students and wound up with six. This year she expects students to continue to express an interest in the program.

“Some students over the summer are getting a feel for it and have taken the initiative themselves,” said Patnaude. “They like it and they wanted to get a head start on it.”

“All the kids want to be YouTubers now,” said Chiarito. “I think that’s part of the draw.

“We’re hoping each year this thing grows,” Chiarito says. “It already has grown beyond our wildest dreams.”

In addition to its new education structure, ORCTV now offers two $1,000 ORCTV Outstanding Student scholarships for two seniors graduating from the program. This year the scholarships were awarded to Kiera Perryman of Old Colony, and Michael Sivvianakis of ORR.

By Jean Perry


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