WMS Vies for Pepsi Refresh Grant

WMS is in the running for a $250K grant for new audio/video equipment from the Pepsi Refresh Project, courtesy of CPBN.

The Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) has chosen Whisconier Middle School (WMS) to compete for a chance to win $250,000 in professional video equipment.  Not only that, if they win, the students will also receive free training and mentoring on how to use the state-of-the-art technology courtesy of CPBN. 

Striving to transform students into "21st Century Journalists," CPBN has selected students from a wide variety of backgrounds to compete for a chance to win the contest. 

According to their website, CPBN Media Lab's Future Producers Workshop Academy feels that "Media is magic. When it is integrated into the school curriculum, it makes the students work harder, research more thoroughly and present their ideas more clearly."

That is exactly what Audio/Visual teacher and school librarian Allen Brosious hopes to teach his students.  

Brosious has taught at WMS for the last 12 years and said one of their goals if they win the grant is to create a classroom studio to work with students as a specials class.

"I want to make students more aware of the power of television," Brosious said, adding, "They watch a lot of television without being aware of its power."

Whether the messages they watch on television are good or bad, Brosious said making kids aware of the programming's impact and how they can be a part of that is something he hopes to teach his students. Growing up, Brosious watched a powerful message that still impacts his life to this day.

"When I was a kid there was something I saw called 'The Great America Driving Test.' That impacted me to the point that every time I come to a stop in a certain situation, it affects the way I stop the car — it was that powerful," he said.

Currently the students have two Flip video cameras and some camcorders they use to make movies for school projects.  The latest project they completed was a film called "A Day in the Life of a Fifth Grader."  The student-made film follows a fifth grader through everyday activities, such as going through a lunch line among other things.

Brosious hopes to be able to show kids how they can make a positive impact on their school and community through media.

Principal of WMS Deane Renda found out about the CPBN Pepsi Refresh project via email and said they have a lot of exciting ideas with how they will use the new equipment in the school, should they be the recipient.

"How great would it be if we got the equipment and were able to broadcast morning announcements with projectors?" Renda offered. During his training period before coming to WMS, Renda recalls seeing kids doing morning announcements with a live feed into the classroom in a Litchfield middle school. Renda wishes to do the same at WMS if they win.  

Brosious said the new equipment would benefit kids in the classroom by giving "opportunities for students who may not be comfortable in the classroom to express themselves in front of a camera better than in front of their peers."

Renda and Brosious also plan on doing videos for channel 17, recording concerts and for school assignments. 

"I would like to see us get some backing," Brosious said, "We're on a shoestring budget, which a lot of schools are, so it would be good to devote some time to this project and get the kids involved."

"We like to push for alternative ways of expression," he continued, "When they produce something it gets them to a higher level of how influential they can be."

There are only five days left to vote for the CPBN/WMSA Pepsi Refresh Project.  Vote daily and vote often by clicking here.  Voting closes August 31.


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