West Ranch High School’s television production class, WRTV, has been named a Student Reporting Lab by the PBS NewsHour and the students are working to create content for the national show.
“It’s funny because I’ve been telling this group since they were freshmen that there is something special about them,” said WRTV’s teacher Jennifer Overdevest. “Knowing that I have the right group of kids to do this is really exciting for me as a teacher. They’re setting, hopefully, a really good example for the next generation of WRTV.”
The daily one-hour newscast, hosted by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, is broadcast on PBS stations across the country to over one million people, according to a news release. West Ranch TV’s responsibility, as a Student Reporting Lab (SRL), will be to provide four news stories to be considered for the broadcast during the school year.
“The students are working to find that story of other students who have had challenges,” Overdevest said.
There are several students working on the project, including Josie Lionetti, Eva Klein, Avery Schroeder, Tucker Welker, Alex Burdsall, Caden Cerulle and Nelson Poole. All of the students working on the project are seniors.
“I’m so proud and so happy that in the Hart District we’re able to foster experiences like this,” said Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht. “The governing board has made it a priority to support programs like this.”
Schroeder won the best documentary at the Student Television Network annual conference which led Overdevest and the students to apply for the Student Reporting Lab.
Overdevest then went to a workshop for the program in Washington D.C. where teachers worked on a similar project to what their students would be working on over the next year.
“When Ms. O. came back and told us that we had been accepted, it was just so exciting and really great to know,” Schroeder said. “I’m really happy about it.”
The students are already working on their first project, a project that uses “people on the street” interviews and explores race and justice. The deadline for the first assignment is Sept. 25.
“I think it’s been an amazing experience. We’ve really worked together which is really, really important,” said Lionetti. “We all have really become a family. This PBS segment, in particular, talking about racial inequality and the struggles that people face was interesting because from our point of view, we don’t really see those racial tensions. I think we really had to look deep.”
WRTV is one of only eight schools in California and 95 schools in the United States to participate in the program.
“Passionate educators are the glue that hold this program together,” said Leah Clapman, managing editor of education for the PBS NewsHour, in a news release. “Every year we discover new ways to expand and improve SRL, with the most innovative and effective ideas coming straight from the teachers on the front lines.”
Overdevest has been a teacher in the William S. Union Hart District for 19 years. She created Valencia High School’s television program as well as WRTV.
The students working on the project hope to use this experience as a stepping stone to continue their broadcast and filmmaking careers after high school.
“It just shows the hard work the kids have done,” said Principal Mark Crawford. “This is going to give them an opportunity to talk about issues and explore issues that go deeper. I’m just proud of them because I know the pride and work they put in.”