Alex Hughes walks this way and that through the Cedar Springs High School student television studio, nervously collecting equipment for the biggest interview he’s done.
A well-loved history teacher, Scott Hazel, has been diagnosed with cancer. He is awaiting word from a Texas treatment center as to when he can go there. Alex is about to interview him for a story on CSTV, the students’ online news station.
“Memory cards, tripods, batteries, voice recorder,” Alex says to himself as classmates mill around the room. “I think we’re ready.”
Nearly an hour later, he walks into Hazel’s classroom with fellow student Kendra Coons, toting two cameras on tripods. Hazel looks shaken. He’s just gotten a call from a specialized cancer clinic in Houston, saying they can’t see him for two weeks.
“Are you okay with doing the interview still?” Alex asks Hazel, a trim, friendly man who also coaches soccer.
“Yeah, if you guys have time,” Hazel says.
“Two weeks,” he adds softly. “That’s going to be an anxiety-filled 14 days.”
Alex and Kendra set up the cameras, one to focus on Hazel and the second on both him and Alex. Alex, who is concerned that he might unwittingly insult the teacher, goes over his questions with him.
“If you don’t like any of these questions, just tell me,” Alex says.
Hazel says he is fine with the questions, then lets out a long sigh. Kendra rolls the cameras.
Learning the Ropes and Loving It
Conducting interviews is only one of many things Alex does for CSTV, the advanced-level class of Cedar’s television production program. Along with 21 other students taught by Justin Harnden, Alex has also learned to handle cameras and audio recorders, edit programs on iMac computers and how to present himself on-air.
The classroom bustles with the energy needed to create news shows for its online audience. The school-related news and features program airs on weekdays in classrooms and over the internet for anyone who cares to watch. The station also covers school athletic contests, concerts and other events.
For Alex, a senior, it’s been a chance to dig into his love of sports while honing his media skills. He grew up glued to Detroit Pistons games and has announced many Red Hawks sporting events. Harnden calls him “an incredibly hard worker,” noting he often volunteers to cover away football games.
Alex’s skills earned him a spot in the broadcast booth of the Division I state football finals, alongside fellow TV production students Kyle Maka and Kody Hall. The game at Detroit’s Ford Field was broadcast by the Michigan High School Athletic Association Network.
“Everything was amazing,” Alex recalls. “When I was announcing, none of it seemed real because it all was in the moment. Until we were on the bus, I didn’t realize we had just broadcast to possibly thousands of people.”
He’s also business manager of the school newspaper, Hawk Nation, for which he writes occasional features. Says editor Kendra Coons, “He’s done a very good job promoting school spirit. It’s improved immensely.”
Making the Most of Every Moment
Alex says his enthusiasm stems from gratitude. Orphaned as an infant in Bolivia, he was adopted as a toddler by Mark and Sue Hughes. Working hard at school and volunteering with his parents at God’s Kitchen are ways of giving back for his good fortune, he says.
“I try to cherish everything I have and everything I do,” Alex says. “I wouldn’t be here in this (school) if it wasn’t for a decision my parents made 18 years ago.”
He is contemplating a career in television advertising and marketing, although he doesn’t rule out the riskier field of broadcasting. But for now, he is intent on his studies – and on his interview with teacher Scott Hazel.
The school and community have rallied financial and emotional support for Hazel, who’s taught in Cedar Springs for 20 years. Alex is determined to do a quality job on the interview because, he says, “he means so much to our school. He’s more than just a teacher.”
In Hazel’s classroom, Alex respectfully asks Hazel about his diagnosis, when he learned of it and his treatment plan. Then he asks how Hazel feels about the community support he’s received.