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Teen program now on evening news

July 26, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

Nervous laughs filled the crowded conference room as the students shifted in their seats, anxiously waiting their turn at the microphone.

The teen-agers, from Brawley, Calipatria and Niland and ranging in age from 14 to 19, are part of the Project Steps of Success' video production class, which produces the "IV TV Kids News" for NBC Channel 11.

Project Steps of Success is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and is administered locally by the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program.

"SOS serves the communities of Brawley, Calipatria and Niland. There are currently almost 400 youth in our program," said Efrain Silva, SOS project director.

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He continued, "To be a part of the SOS, students must do community service and take personal growth classes."

The video production class was started this summer by Steve Mellow, both teacher and producer for the class.

"I teach the class like a college class," said Mellow, who gives the students papers and lectures and takes them on weekly field trips.

"I'm totally involved. This is a job for them and I'm their employer," he added.

Mellow has been involved in media since he was "8 years old in Chicago."

"I would bring the neighborhood kids together and teach them how to act in plays," he said.

"I've always wanted to create and act and produce," he said.

Mellow has written and produced two Broadway musicals and is working on a pilot show for an "Imperial Valley Sesame Street," for which he has plans of building a studio.

"My vocation is to inspire people to express themselves," he said.

Silva explained the students who participated in the video production class were selected by their case managers and were chosen based on their involvement in community service and personal growth classes.

The students are "under a work experience contract with SOS," and are paid minimum wage for producing "IV TV Kids News."

With three interviews scheduled and hours of editing ahead the students were not wasting time with their questions.

The students interview, edit and produce every piece that is aired, and they want it just right; three video cameras capture every angle of the interviews.

In the first interview, they grilled John Anderson, county schools superintendent, with prepared questions before packing up and moving on to the Arts Council.

"My favorite part is doing the interviews," said 17-year-old Maria Mendiola.

Andrew Taylor, 18, has plans of becoming both a chef and an actor.

He said he enjoys "being able to talk to people and interview them off the streets."

"I enjoy being in front of the camera," said Taylor, who has considered a career "later on" in broadcasting.

Taylor recognizes the class is not just about interviews.

"I've learned teamwork and respect for others," he said, adding "It was hard at first for everyone to trust each other."

Biri Garcia, 17, said she also has learned how to work as a team.

"My communication skills have improved, I've learned how to work with other people and how to ignore conflicts," she said.

She credits the class for "helping me to open up," and wants to pursue broadcasting in the future.

"But my focus right now is to go to school. I'm going to IVC in the fall," she said.

Yesenia Martinez, 18, also plans to pursue a broadcasting career, although of a different venue.

"I enjoy reporting and I enjoy editing," she said, "but my main thing would be to be involved in radio."

Martinez, who has completed a year at Imperial Valley College, laughed with other students as they recalled difficulties they've encountered in the video production class.

"The hardest part is when you find out your piece doesn't work and you have to go out and do it again. It's happened a few times," she said.

Formerly with the Fox network, "IV TV Kids News" now has a slot in the Channel 11's evening news.

"We're no longer doing the weekend shows," said Mellow, adding the student's pieces are running on the evening news on a daily basis.

Mellow said the station plans to let the class have a half hour time slot periodically in the future.

"It would probably be on a weekend," said Mellow, stressing there are no definite plans.

"It's rewarding to see them come together and work as a team, to see them get excited daily about doing stories and to get to see their work on the air," Mellow said.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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