CHESAPEAKE — It’s a half-hour to airtime and it would be hard to tell the difference between the studio at Chesapeake Middle School and any other television station.
There are two anchors behind the studio desk running their lines from a teleprompter, practicing one more time to make sure they’re flawless before they go on.
Across the room three from the behind-the-scenes crew check out the sound level and a student-created digital video that will come up during the broadcast.
There is nothing too unusual about this scene. That is until a visitor realizes how young these broadcasters look. And that is one of the things that makes WPAW so remarkable. It is a completely student-generated broadcast.
There are 34 students from sixth, seventh and eighth grades who willingly show up at Chesapeake Middle by 7:30 in the morning to go through the duties necessary to put on a daily broadcast.
Each student takes a turn at all the jobs, on camera and behind the scenes, says Terry Montgomery, who is the sponsor of the broadcast group as well as the gifted interventionist specialist at the school.
“We want them to get more comfortable, develop their special abilities,” Montgomery explained one morning before showtime. “Middle school is a tough time for confidence. This is a real confidence builder.”
Another way for the students to develop poise is when the experienced broadcasters at WPAW get to train the new kids at the station.
“You have to know what you are teaching. It gives the kids confidence … It also builds friendships,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery is quick to point out that it is the students’ broadcast and their ideas are often incorporated into the format. For example, it was the students who wanted to have a “Word of the Day” segment each morning, where a new vocabulary word is introduced to the school.
Just as there are a variety of styles at the station, there are just as many reasons why these students eagerly give up extra minutes of sleep to come to school early to work on the broadcasts.
“You just get a sense you are a part of something important and that you matter,” Dakota Bowman, an eighth grader, said.
Sawyer Stephens is a seventh grader who says he could see himself as a professional anchor one day when he gets out of school.
“You get to speak in front of other people and give the news,” Sawyer said, adding he enjoys the educational aspect of working at the station.
“You learn all these new words and you learn how to work a sound board,” he said.
Both Nick Malavenda and Lora Hastings enjoy handling the behind the scenes work.
“It’s fun to work with the cameras,” Malavenda said. … to make sure things work well.”
As the clock that morning showed, it was close to airtime, Montgomery had the crew do a quick sound check. Then with an admonition for everyone to get quiet, Montgomery said the magic words:
“OK, here we go.”
Quickly the students took their places in front and behind the camera for another morning’s broadcast.
WPAW is on the air.