Cedar Springs — It’s clear from the exuberant, ’80s-inspired, synth-pop intro theme that the hosts of the new Cedar Springs High School podcast are having a blast.
Tune in and you’ll hear juniors Evan Mattson and Ian VanderLugt welcome you to the show with a declaration of their mission to “spread glee and eliminate negativity.”
The podcast, dubbed Hawk’s Nest in honor of the school’s mascot, premiered on Aug. 31. It’s recorded in the high school’s multimedia room, where a soundbooth functions as Hawk’s Nest HQ. That’s where Evan and Ian can be found this year, chatting up students and teachers, and exploring school district happenings, news and upcoming events.
‘We’re highlighting both the overall community and what’s going on with the school.’— Cedar Springs High School junior Ian VanderLugt
It’s all part of the curriculum for a media productions class taught by Justin Harnden, affectionately referred to as “H” by students and staff alike.
“Me and Ian were the ones who kind of picked it up, but … it was H’s idea,” Evan said.
Harnden said the two juniors took the concept and “ran with it.”
‘Figuring It Out as We Go’
The format of the podcast is still being fleshed out, but Evan and Ian know there’s going to be an emphasis on amplifying various voices in the school district.
“We’re highlighting both the overall community and what’s going on with the school,” Ian said, highlighting “certain students, what they do, and their skills.”
“We don’t have a main focus,” Evan added. “This first few months — this first year of doing it — we’re just kind of figuring it out as we go.”
There’s no sign of uncertainty when they’re recording. Both Evan and Ian have backgrounds in video production — not to mention their years of experience using social media and consuming content on a daily basis — and when conducting interviews or talking shop, their eyes light up as they explain their goals and hopes for the podcast.
“We want to create some interesting, fun content,” Evan said, adding they want to “actually make it entertaining.”
Ian noted that there’s a long-term plan to add a video component to the podcast, because that visual piece really makes content sing.
“You feel more engaged if you can see someone,” Ian said. “It’s like FaceTime versus a regular call.”
Some of the airtime will be devoted to school district news and updates, but the hosts are also hoping to get creative with their craft as they learn more.
“Part of it is to just update (listeners) on what’s going on. We’re always going to talk about what happened last week and what’s going to happen,” Evan said. “The other part is to, honestly, just have interesting or fun conversations with students and teachers.”
In the Booth
During a recent recording session for the second episode, Evan and Ian were in the booth with two fellow juniors who just started a band — Logan Friskey and Gavin Kirkwood. While testing out the sound equipment and chatting about what the band’s name should be, Gavin said he and Logan wanted to make an appearance on the show because they figured it would be a good way to connect with their school community.
“We like to hang out with these two,” Gavin said of Evan and Ian, “and I feel like it would be good for us to talk about things and get involved with the school more.”
There are plenty of others lining up to take turns on the pod.
“We’ve got a lot of friends and classmates that are all wanting to appear on the show, so we’re scheduling our guest appearances, … (and) trying to prep as much as we can with questions and topics,” Ian said.
Building the Nest
The idea for Hawk’s Nest stemmed from an effort to bolster the school’s social media presence. Evan and Ian, along with the other students in Harnden’s media production class, are responsible for updating the Cedar Springs social media channels. A podcast seemed like a natural addition.
Harnden said he feels privileged to work in a school district that’s open to new media.
“I think it’s really cool that the school empowers us — empowers our students — to be able to express ourselves on those platforms, especially when a lot of places are tightening up,” Harnden said. “I think it’s cool that we’ve … embraced the social media aspect of it.”
Evan and Ian will continue to run the podcast for the time being, and the staff will likely expand as the semesters pass.
The two juniors are excited about their new venture, and already thinking about how they’ll use their media-production know-how later in life. Ian plans to pursue a career in videography, while Evan hopes to keep creating content, even if it’s just as a hobby.
Hawk’s Nest is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Episodes come out on Mondays, and are usually 10 to 20 minutes long.
The hosts are hoping people take the time to listen.
“Just tune in, please,” Evan said. “We love the support.”
Anyone in the Cedar Springs community with a story to share is welcome to pitch an idea on the Hawk’s Nest Instagram account, @cshawksnest.