Student-made video wins first in national competition
Stethem students highlight alternative education program
A student-produced video has helped the Robert D. Stethem Education Center “Soar to New Heights” with a first place win in the National Alternative Education Association’s 2016 Student Film Awards.
The video, “Soar to New Heights,” the theme of the NAEA’s 2016 conference, was produced by seniors Jesse Wade, an HVAC major, and Shelby Burgess, and interactive media production major.
Both students are taking Photo II at Stethem, and were assigned the task of creating a video by photography teacher Stephen Gilligan.
Gilligan said Stethem Principal Lynn Arnold approached him with the idea of creating a video for the annual competition. This was the first year Stethem submitted an entry.
“We were in a staff meeting, and Ms. Arnold mentioned that one of the things she wanted us to do to help our school stand out was to enter into the video competition,” Gilligan said. “So I just kind of took it and ran with it.”
Gilligan enlisted Wade and Burgess to produce the film, which was shot on a Canon EOS Rebel T6i digital camera.
“I felt confident that if I were to task them with the assignment that it would be something they could take on,” Gilligan said.
Burgess said the original idea was to produce a documentary, but that Arnold suggested putting a story to it.
“So we went back to the drawing board, and bounced ideas off of each other,” Gilligan said. “So I had them write up a script based on our initial story idea, and I think Shelby and Jesse had about 15 rewrites.”
The plot of the 11-minute film centers around Jesse, played by Wade, a student who struggles at his high school until he finds a paper airplane detailing the programs at Stethem.
The film shows Jesse working with Stethem teachers and improving his grades. Afterward, Jesse passes along the Stethem paper airplane to another student, played by Burgess.
“Shelby’s interactive media class deals with all the cameras, so it made sense for her to be the one behind the camera,” Wade said.
The students worked on the film from November until late December.
“I told them that it was going to take a while, because you have to go through the entire process. You can’t just take one shot and say, ‘We’re good, we’ve got it.’ You have to give yourself a lot of room for error, but they did a really great job with it,” Gilligan said.
Gilligan said students and staff at Stethem were extremely helpful in playing extras in the film.
“Two of the scenes were with my interactive media production class, which made it easier, and then the other was an actual class from the school where we asked the teacher if we could film with them,” Burgess said.
Gilligan said he received an email in January informing him that they had won first place in the competition.
“I cried,” Burgess said of when she got the news. “All the months that we had worked on it finally paid off.”
“I was surprised. I knew we did a lot better than we thought we were going to do, but it wasn’t what I expected,” added Wade.
First place comes with a $400 prize to the school, and their video is featured on the NAEA website. It can also be viewed on YouTube.
Gilligan said he is extremely proud of his students. “This is great for the kids. This is something they’ll be able to put on their resumes for the rest of their lives,” Gilligan said.
Gilligan said he hopes the video can help dispel some of the negative stereotypes about Stethem in particular and alternative high schools in general.
“There’s a lot more to Stethem then what people think there is,” Burgess added.
Arnold said she is extremely pleased her school won first place on its first entry into the competition.
“The kids did an amazing job with it,” Arnold said. “My first-year expectation was that we were just going to enter something. So when it came back to me that we had won that national competition, I was just blown away. I’m amazed and proud of our kids.”
Arnold said she has begun using the video to help explain Stethem’s opt-in program to others.
“It’s just a great tool for our school,” Arnold said.
Career and Technology Education students Jesse Wade, left, and Shelby Burgess look over footage shot for “Soar to New Heights,” a short film they made for the 2016 film awards for the National Alternative Education Association. Wade and Burgess, with the help of their photography teacher Stephen Gilligan, wrote and filmed in and around the campus of the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center. The film placed first in the competition.