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Student broadcasters make work for world to see

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 20, 2016


FRASER — It’s awards season, and Fraser High School’s broadcast department is enjoying its time in the sun.

The young broadcasters, who span different grade levels, have been honored or nominated in numerous award categories and competitions.

The high school’s Flash Broadcasters, as they are also known, won “Best in Show” at the 48th annual Michigan Student Film Festival for their video “Metal Mettle,” which was inspired by the broadcasters’ female classmate in an FHS welding program.

“Metal Mettle” was a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs assignment, with the objective of displaying particular gender stereotypes. Junior Bella Crook and sophomores Keenan Penn II and Austin Smith created that report.

The video was one of more than 600 from across Michigan to be judged by Detroit video professionals. It will be screened along with 10 other winning videos April 23 at the Detroit Film Theatre within the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Crook was offered a $10,000 University of Detroit-Mercy communications scholarship for her work with the report.

The students also earned awards at the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ Michigan Student Broadcast Awards — including second place for the “Fraser Today” news broadcast and second place for a public service announcement.

And out of more than 600 entries for a “Courageous Persuaders” film contest, FHS had one of 60 entries that will be voted on until May 1. The entry, which is a public service announcement stressing the dangers of alcohol or texting and driving, offers $30,000 worth of scholarships and about 18 to 20 awards.

Jamie Flanagan, the students’ teacher who is also the digital media chair for Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, said he has encouraged his 22 students to branch out and not cluster at their own respective grade levels. Group work has shown to enliven creativity in his department.

“There’s a real convergence going on,” Flanagan said, while being surrounded by Crook, Penn, junior Samantha Nork and seniors Brandon Devroy and Roy McIntosh. “It’s different perspectives, and the older kids and the kids with more experience get to mentor them a little bit too. It works out nicely.”

The students come from different backgrounds and have their own inspirations. Penn said he was stimulated by his cousin’s foray into communications, while Crook was part of a broadcast club in elementary school and wanted to be in front of the camera as a youngster — dreaming of auditioning for the Disney Channel.

Devroy’s passion comes from an older, but effective, medium: radio. He recalls turning the radio on all the time while growing up.

“Doing podcasts and branching into TV or video producing only seemed to fascinate me because it all kind of goes back to radio,” Devroy said.

Penn will also be returning to Washington, D.C., for the second straight year. He was once again selected to participate in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Summer Academy, along with 19 other students from around the country.

“It was a great experience,” Penn said. “Before (my experience in 2015) I was like, ‘I like this field.’ And after last year’s experience, I was like, ‘I’m going into this. I like it.’”

Flanagan said he tends to give his students a concrete angle of a certain objective, then lets the students attain their own voices and creatively go in different directions.

A fourth quarter project involves creating a short film for the third annual White House Student Film Festival. This year’s theme, “The World I Want to Live In,” invites students in grades K-12 to visually display their future hopes, dreams and aspirations.

“That’s what I try to convey to them: You need to get people’s attention, you need to tell your story, you need to tell it honestly,” Flanagan said. “Sometimes young people go, ‘Who cares what I have to say? Who cares what I think?’ And it’s like, I do and a lot of people do. You shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.”

To watch the “Metal Mettle” video, visit