Broadcast team at Richards in Oak Lawn deemed best in nation

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When it comes to broadcast news produced by high school students, none is better than what you’ll see from Richards High School in Oak Lawn, a national organization said.
From March 13 to 17, the Richards broadcast team led by instructor Aaron Vermedal were in Long Beach, California, where they competed at the Student Television Network Convention.
The long trip was worth it.
Richards won first place in Broadcast Excellence in Scholastic Broadcast Journalism, which recognized their Bulldog Dispatch as the best high school video news program in the United States.
Vermedal called the honor “an outstanding achievement that underscores their dedication and skill.”
The award includes a trophy and a new professional audio board for the production studio at school.
But that’s not all.
The Richards students also placed second in the Morning Show category, where they had just eight hours to conceive, plan, produce, and edit an eight-minute episode.
To say Richards defied the odds is putting it mildly.
“This is 200 of the country’s best (high school) broadcast programs,” Vermedal said.
That includes “preparatory schools, private schools, schools of the arts, schools that students go to become filmmakers and digital media producers. That’s who we were competing against,” Vermedal said.
“A little South Side Chicago public school making waves. It’s a big deal,” he said.
Vermedal said the students “defied the bounds of possibility and crafted greatness with determination. I couldn’t be prouder of their dedication, grit, and relentless pursuit of excellence.”
You can watch Bulldog Dispatch on YouTube, he said. They try to produce a new show every week
“We’ll do little packages with interviews. We have ‘the Dog Dish’ dishing the (school) announcements. It usually has three packages (in each show) about what’s going on in the community and in the school,” Vermedal said.
Producing the eight-minute episode that took 2nd place was a bit of a challenge. They were not allowed to phone ahead or make any plans. It was eight hours of intense work, students said.
Twelve students went to the convention. About 120 students are in the program.
Senior Isaak Martinez, 17, of Oak Lawn, said the victory “means a lot to me just being able to go out there and compete against all these schools that focus on media and video.”
“I’m very proud of our team,” Martinez said.
He said “every second counted” when the eight-minute video was worked on.
The “It Takes Two” theme had Richards students making cold calls to a dance studio to see a lesson, catch the interplay between a barber and customer and interact with a dog owner and pooch at a beach.
Senior Ray Anderson, 18, of Robbins, said his crew was twice turned down.
“We went to a roller rink. I guess she wasn’t a morning person,” Anderson said. “We also hit a chicken restaurant, but they had a lot going on.”
The last option was featuring a tango lesson at a dance studio. “It turned out to be great,” he said.
Winning “means a lot. Mr. V makes a big difference,” Anderson added.
Senior Sophia Negrete, 17, of Oak Lawn, said the award is reflective of all the students who’ve worked on Bulldog Dispatch, not just those who made the trip to California.
She also worked on a three-hour project called “One Thing About Me.”
“We wanted to make it funny. A lot of trial and error. We visited the famous Queen Mary, but it turns out you can’t film there,” she said.
Junior Joseph Kassanitz, 16, of Oak Lawn, one of the few broadcast students returning to the program next school year, said the win was “refreshing.”
“Hearing Richards is the best in the nation is the best feeling,” he said.
He and most of his fellow broadcasting students hope to have careers in the field.
Working at Richards on the Bulldog Dispatch and learning the trade are steps in that direction, said Vermedal, who works part-time presenting items on the video board at White Sox games.
“The great thing about this program is even if students decide to not focus on media, they have the skills to freelance on the site or use those skills in a business situation,” he said.
In the end, it’s about getting the message across in a clear and concise fashion.
“All we’re doing here is we’re learning how to tell stories. That’s what you have to do in the real world as well whether you’re giving a pitch, a presentation, anything like that,” Vermedal said. “We’re just telling stories.”
Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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