A high school student watches monitors showing another student in a production studio.

‘Hometown Stories: Youth Media’ helps students put a local lens on national issues

December 18, 2023 Tawny Morrison Leave a Comment

This fall, students in the Latino Studies class at Beloit Memorial High School had the unique opportunity to co-produce four short documentaries with PBS Wisconsin Education, connecting national issues to local Latino experiences.

The documentaries are part of PBS Wisconsin Education’s Hometown Stories: Youth Media project, which aims to help students connect to, research and share about underrepresented stories and identities in their communities.

PBS Wisconsin Education engagement specialist Nick Ostrem and producer Ian Glodich partnered with Beloit Memorial High School social studies teacher Kyle Walker to teach students about historical research and media production skills. Over just nine weeks, students conducted research, wrote scripts, filmed interviews and recorded voice-overs for their mini-documentaries.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime event for my students, something I know they are going to remember forever and be very proud of what they did,” Walker said.

For Walker, a highlight was taking students to the Wisconsin Historical Society to conduct research.

“They got to interact with documents from as early as the 1930s, and they got to see documents created by Latinos and for Latinos that had messages and information that resonated with their lives today,” he said.

“The most challenging part was looking at our resources and putting a script together,” said student Armando Gonzalez.

One barrier was finding images they could include in their films.

“Not being able to use specific photos due to copyright issues was complicated, and it was also hard providing B-Roll,” explained student Gisela Peña.

A media production professional speaks with two high school students who are about to conduct an interview in a studio.

PBS Wisconsin Education producer Ian Glodich, right, helps guide students through an interview filmed at PBS Wisconsin.


The class also spent a day with PBS Wisconsin representatives, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the production studios and filming parts of their documentaries.

“I loved recording in an actual studio,” Gisela said. “It made me feel important, and seeing the recording process for each video was so much fun since we used professional equipment like a teleprompter and high-quality cameras.”

Reflecting on the experience, Walker said, “I hope my students walk away with the notion that they have the skill set to create powerful pieces of information that speak to the realities of their lives and that they can use their voices to create positive changes.”

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