NAUGATUCK — After receiving a nearly $10,000 grant to build a broadcast studio at City Hill Middle School in the spring of 2016, paraeducator Joseph Savarese recalled the venture got off to a bit of a rocky start.
“We didn’t know if we were going to broadcast one day and not the next,” said Savarese, who oversees the broadcast program and applied for the grant with former technology education teacher Allison Stephens.
The grant, which was funded by the Naugatuck Education Foundation, paid for all the equipment the studio would need, including a camera, lights, switchboard and sound equipment. But, at the time, Savarese said no one knew what they had or had any experience in setting up a TV studio.
“We just dug in and we learned,” he said.
That they did.
“Right now, we’re fully functioning as a broadcast studio,” Savarese said on a recent Monday morning while preparing for a live broadcast. “That’s what we do.”
Now, more than two years after receiving the grant, students broadcast two programs from the studio live throughout the school.
The Morning News — the first program produced by the students — is broadcast live every morning at the start of the school day. The roughly five-minute program focuses on the news of the day, like school announcements and what’s for lunch.
Mid Day Live, a new program this school year, is more of an entertainment program and features several reoccurring segments, including Tech Savvy, Cyclones Sports and Q&A. The show, which is about 15 minutes, is broadcast on a rotating basis based on the school’s schedule. The program is broadcast live during consecutive lunch waves. The students broadcast the show during one lunch wave then do the show again during the next wave.
The studio and the shows are run and produced by the students. While Savarese provides oversight, the students do their own research and write their own scripts for the shows. There are anchors, reporters and an editor, and a full technical crew to work the cameras and switchboard and set up the lights.
“We empower them to do their own thing,” Savarese said. “I don’t really do much for them.”
Twenty-one students from all segments of the student population are involved in the program this school year. The students don’t receive credit for taking part in the program — at least not yet — they voluntarily participate in it. Some see the broadcast program as a chance to hone their skills in a field they’d like to pursue as a career, while others enjoy producing TV shows with their friends while making new ones.
“I just thought it was a really cool program and thought it would be fun,” said eighth-grader Shayne Hasipi, a camera operator and production coordinator for the studio.
Eighth-grader Lillian Bogart, a reporter for The Morning News who reads the lunch menu and sometimes also works the camera, got involved after seeing a friend work the camera. She said the students involved in the program remind her of a close family, and seeing how they improve every day is what she likes the most.
“I’ll be sad when I leave (the program),” she said.
Eighth-grader Jake Stankiewicz, a production coordinator, is one of the first people in the studio in the morning to make sure all the technical aspects are in working order. He also operates the camera.
Stankiewicz said he participated in a similar program while attending elementary school in Waterbury.
“I really enjoyed what I did before, and it’s definitely something that interests me as a possible career field,” he said.
Stankiewicz said he’s learned a lot in the program, including there’s always more to something than what it seems on the surface. In seventh grade, he said, they started out by just watching the studio in action, and it seemed simple.
“When you really get into it, it starts to become more complicated because everything has moving parts,” he said.
Eighth-grader Jeffrey Postowlowski, who works the switchboard, said he’s learned how to use more advanced technology and communicate better with others during his time in the program.
As for what he likes most, Postowlowski replied, “Everything. How fun it is. How to work on your skills and improve on them.”
In the future, Savarese said, he would like to expand the technical capabilities of program, including being able to do field coverage of sports.
For now, they will keep doing what they’ve been doing at the studio.
“It’s a central or a focal point, I think, for everybody in the school, certainly for the students,” Savarese said.
The following is a list of City Hill Middle School students involved in the live broadcast program:
Joceyln Berios: Co-anchor
Gianna Yannantuono: Co-anchor
Aubrey Deller: Reporter/Anchor
Riley Best: Reporter/Anchor
Lilly Bogart: Reporter
Hannah Cyr: Anchor
Blake Stone: Cyclone Sports Announcer
Thalia Jardim: Cyclone Sports Announcer
Lauren Sonski: Cyclone Sports Commentary
David Cocchiola: Tech Savy Show
Jason Ky: Tech Savy Show
Anique Dauber: Q&A Show
Leah Quijano: Special Events Reporter
Ed Baftjari: Trivia Time
Rana Aljamal: Scripts Editor
Shayne Hasipi: Production Coordinator
Jake Stanowicz: Production Coordinator
Leah Kulman: Camera
Everette Kiernan: Audio
Jeff Postowlowski: Video
Aiden Adonowski: Set & Lighting