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Volunteer Credit to Watch Sports? Yes You Can!

To get to his regular volunteer gig this fall, sophomore Zach Hall climbs two flights of metal stairs, then hoists himself and whatever gear he needs up about a dozen ladder rungs and through a hole in the floor.

From there, he maneuvers a relatively narrow platform and spends the next couple hours looking through a video camera as he films Panthers soccer games from three stories above the field. In winter, he will move indoors to film boys and girls basketball.

“I enjoy filming them,” says Zach, who admits he’s not even a sports fan.

Broadcast Program Honored Again
For the second year in a row, Comstock Park High School has been named a “select school” by the National Federation of State High School Associations for demonstrating excellent broadcasting skills.

Comstock Park was one of 100 schools recognized across the country for 2017-18, and the only Kent ISD school to be recognized. About 70 Michigan schools participate in the NFHS network, as well as the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

While the majority of schools only broadcast sports through their online broadcast network, others such as Comstock Park also broadcast debate events, graduation ceremonies, musical performances and interviews.

Here’s how to subscribe to Comstock Park’s NFHS video broadcast page and get access to live and on-demand video. Half of each subscription fee is returned to the district’s video production department.

“That actually produces better quality film, because you don’t get caught up in the action,” points out video production teacher Harold Schneider, who helps Zach while he’s on top of the press box by monitoring the action on a computer screen.

It’s an award-winning effort (see sidebar), but this small group is constantly looking to add members. The hope was that Schneider’s broadcasting students would film games and other school events as part of class credit, but that turns out to be easier said than done.

For example, of seven students this semester, one is the goalie on the varsity soccer team. Another will likely need time off for the school play. And who knows what else will come up. Schneider often serves as backup. And oh, he also coaches track and field.

“It’s just the way it is in a small school,” Schneider said. “They’re all so busy: sports, leadership, after-school clubs, music, theater, driver’s ed.”

Zach started filming for the high school last year when he learned he could get volunteer credit. Any student at the school who wants to learn about video production can become a camera operator and editor to earn volunteer hours.

“It’s easy,” Zach said. “You just have to follow the action, you have to be focused. Zoom in, zoom out. That’s about it.”

Small School, Big Film Achievements

In class a couple weeks before, Schneider replayed for a visitor the Sept. 22 junior varsity football game against Unity Christian. On it, the screen switched from the action on the field to the scoreboard and the clock.

Video production teacher Harold Schneider found a $25 stand-in for a $2,000 piece of equipment that allows him to switch between two cameras during events

“This was the first time we’d done the switching between two cameras,” he explained. “By the time we get to varsity we’ll have a little experience.” While this is a common filming technique, a portable switcher costs about $5,000.

Schneider’s solution: after research and some trial and error, he found a $25 part that could do the job. He has led the school’s video and film production class since the early 1990s.

The seven students in the video production class currently are working on an anti-bullying public service announcement. Schneider walked them through developing a concept, writing a script and creating a storyboard. They are also familiarizing themselves with video and studio equipment and related computer software.

While students are learning the mechanics of video production, they also hone problem-solving, teamwork and decision-making skills.


Watch Comstock Park High School broadcasting students’ anti-bullying PSA

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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