(Video by Kevin Yang)
The School District of Philadelphia’s student-run TV studio is, once again, now officially open for business.
After a nearly three-year journey of bringing Public School Television (PSTV) back to life, the School District held a studio-warming party on a cold morning this past Monday. In the TV studio, located in the basement of District headquarters, student bands from high schools across the city performed musical selections for the lively crowd as they enjoyed sandwiches, baked goods and iced tea catered by the Culinary Arts Food Management Program at Benjamin Franklin High School.
What was left years ago as an abandoned storage room, which Superintendent Dr. William Hite described as “a whole room filled with nothing but VHS tapes,” is now a fully-equipped studio with the latest industry standard equipment, two dressing rooms, an audio recording room, a control room, a green screen and multiple media rooms for content editing. All this, along with training programs, are accessible to any Philadelphia student, for free, regardless of whether they attend private or public schools.
Despite the ongoing budget crisis faced by the School District, officials such as Chief Information Officer Melanie Harris and her team, supported by current Station Manager and Silicon Valley transplant Shelley Wolfe, advocated for the importance of a media studio that would provide essential skills and experiences for students outside the traditional classroom. The studio is backed in part by $4.5 million over the next 15 years through fees that Comcast pays to the city.
School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie Neff spoke at the ribbon cutting, remarking on the value of having this space for students in a time when creativity, innovation, technological skills and flexibility are valued.
Addressing the adults in the room, she said, “I suspect that every one of the adults in this room has had experiences that pushed you in the direction of the career path you’re on today.”
She said that, for her, it was an internship experience at West Philadelphia High School that motivated her to join the education industry.
For some of the students present, it’s been their experiences at PSTV that has gotten them excited about media.
Moving around the room to record the speeches and interactions of the guests at the relaunch was Olivia Sandom, a junior at J.R. Masterman High School and one of 15 students who make up PSTV’s first class. She learned about PSTV through her involvement with public radio station WHYY, which she has been working with since freshman year. While she remains open about her goals for the future, she says, “The great thing about this is that it goes into different fields of media.”
Then there was Daniel Tejada, a senior at Franklin Learning Center, who had originally planned to pursue a computer science major before he found a media labs program run by WHYY last year. WHYY and PSTV’s partnership led him to take several trips to the PSTV studio to produce film of his own.
“I like it here so I started coming here more often,” he said. “That’s why I’m going to stay. I want to learn.”
He hopes to use the drone that PSTV just received. The station also received some GoPro cameras and a cage so they can make 360-degree videos. Though it didn’t strike him before, he now wants to go to college for digital media.
Even for students who aren’t committed to the field of communications, the studio is place for expression.
Returning to PSTV this year, Tejada brought along his friend Zaniyah Hunter, also a senior at Franklin Learning Center. While her plans after high school consist of joining the Navy then going to college to prepare for medical school, she chooses to spend time at the studio’s recording room to create songs once a week.
The event was run, filmed and broadcasted live by students on Comcast Channel 52, Verizon Fios Channel 20 and on PSTV’s own website. PSTV will provide student created coverage 24/7, every day of the week.
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