Stu­dent-made video wins first in na­tional com­pe­ti­tion

Stethem stu­dents high­light al­ter­na­tive ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­ Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

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.

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