Events at Claughton Middle School almost always have a media presence.
Attend a volleyball game, and you might run into a photographer grabbing action shots of the players; walk through an open house and you might be asked to do a quick interview.
It’s not because the local media has taken a sudden increased interest in the middle school just off Spears Road. The sudden influx of reporters present at Claughton events are actually students at the middle school, representing the NET, an after-school program and club for students interested in media and media production.
The NET grew out of the school’s media classes at Claughton, a part of the polytechnic program. It is also a personal passion of Tina Oliver, a teacher at Claughton.
She started a career in media right after she graduated from college a decade ago. She worked as a production assistant and content creator, working on both music videos and short films. She now uses that experience to teach students what it’s really like to work in media.
“The media classes here at Claughton are to prepare students who are wanting to pursue a career in media. They are designed to give them the skills and knowledge needed, so they may continue this career path once they get to high school,” Oliver said. “The teachers in the program have different backgrounds within the media and technology fields. When you put all those experiences together, only greatness could evolve from that.”
The Claughton Middle School Polytechnic Middle School was launched a few years ago to focus on communications, video game programming, animation, and digital forensics and robotics, while also offering pre-AP classes and technology-related internships. It was made possible, in part, by the 2016 Bond Program which purchased new technology for the school.
For students in the program, the programs have opened up new pathways for the future.
“I thought this was a good thing to do,” 7th-grader Zion Steward said. “And I’m in theater, so I thought this might be a good way to help me out with that. It sounded fun, and I like talking and interviewing. I know most schools don’t have this kind of program. So it’s nice to have a better opportunity like this for the future.”
Students spend their classroom hours learning interviewing and editing skills, and then use the after-school hours to learn the different roles in media production. At events, they use those skills to create recap videos with interviews, photography, and animation.
For 7th-grader Keilyn Lizama, it was an easy decision to join the after school program.
“I like asking people questions and meeting them,” she said. “I want to do this in the future, too. I feel like when I get deeper into this, I’m going to like it even more.”
For teachers in the program, the highlight has been how students are able to take their skills and transform them so quickly into polished projects.
“They are excited each day they come to class and with that excitement it gives them the eagerness to want to learn more,” Oliver said. “In just the two months of being in class they have excelled. I am so impressed that even when we have to pivot they are ready to roll with it.”
The goal of the program is to give students an introduction to media production, giving them the foundation they need to continue studies in media with a similar program at Westfield High School. Oliver said she plans to make a short film in the spring semester, among other upcoming projects.
“My hopes are to take this media program as far as I can possibly take it. At the rate of how the students are excelling, it’s only a matter of time before they are [capable] of producing things that people twice their age are doing,” Oliver said. “I also hope to bring new energy and show the world what Claughton Middle School has to offer!”