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High schoolers have fun and focus on possible future careers at first COM Camp

When the studio lights switched on in the Butler Communication Building television studio on July 6, they lit more than just sets. They helped fire the imaginations, and enlighten the educational goals, of ten high school students participating in the first ever Communication Summer Camp. Sponsored by the Department of Communication and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, “COM Camp” focused its inaugural sessions on broadcast performance and production.

Senior Lecturer Dean Phillips, with more than 25 years in the broadcasting industry, helped to develop the camp curriculum. “I spent more than a year visiting Wake County schools speaking with principals and teachers to get their thoughts on the feasibility of such a camp,” says Phillips. “I was met with enthusiasm and a willingness to help spread the word among their students, so we in the department determined to make this thing happen.”

Working with Department Head, Dr. Ken Zagacki, and television production instructor for undergraduates, Jim Alchediak, Phillips developed the five-day summer camp for rising high school juniors and seniors with an interest in broadcast production and news writing. Alchediak took on the role of Camp Director and with the help of department staff the project became a reality.

“We hit the ground running,” says Phillips. “I wanted to get the campers in the studio, hands-on with the equipment, and create a newscast from start to finish. And we did it in less than a week!”

Seeing the need for help on the performance side, Teaching Assistant Professor and director of the COM 110 (Public Speaking) program, Dr. Elizabeth Nelson, was brought in to offer assistance to the campers with presentational and general communication skills. She briefed campers on the basics of public speaking, from critical thinking and presentational modes to pitch and pauses. “We worked directly with the scripts the students wrote themselves based on current news events,” she says. “We perfected language specifically for a television audience, paying close attention to grammar and emphasis so that campers would understand how crucial those points are to an effective delivery.”

Trying to squeeze a semester of television production into less than five hours a day, in no more than a week, was a challenge for Alchediak. “I had to focus on priority tasks for this group, concentrate on overviews,” he says. “Our time was very limited so we worked intensely on script writing and editing, talent (working in front of the camera), camera operation, and in the control room, running the audio board and switching camera shots.” Alchediak was amazed at how quickly the campers learned their responsibilities within the production team, and some were naturals. “The young lady who gave directing a shot remained in that role the entire week. She was phenomenal and now she is seriously considering pursuing that path after college.”

By the end of the week, the campers had produced two [10-minute] newscasts, rotating duties with each production, with most experiencing both the second-by-second pace behind, and in front of, the camera. On the last day of camp, the final productions were presented to students and their parents. There was a deep sense of pride not only between parent and child, but also among the faculty and staff.

“It all went so well for a first-time camp,” Phillips says with a smile. “We wanted those kids to have a great experience, to enjoy themselves, and to feel part of NC State University. I believe we accomplished that with every camper.”
According to comments entered on the camper’s exit surveys, Phillips is spot on:

“I feel like I finally know what my future will entail. Thank you so much!”

“This Camp has made me so happy and it is the most fun I’ve had all summer.”

“I loved it!”

And that’s a wrap. Until next summer.


Photographs by Robert Bell / Dept. of Communication


Campers prepare newscast.
Mary Schneider (Wakefield H.S., Raleigh), Natalie Rinehard (St. Mary’s, Raleigh), and Dawson Place (Fred T. Foard H.S., Hickory) share a laugh in the newsroom as the prepare newscast scripts.
Com Campers learn about TV production.
All eyes are on television production instructor James Alchediak as he explains camera angles in the Butler Communication Bldg. TV studio control room.
NC State's James Alchediak discusses camera shots with camper Ashley Hatcher.
Instructor James Alchediak discusses camera shots with newscast director Ashley Hatcher (Garner Magnet H.S.) who plans to pursue a career in television production based on her camp experience.
Camper prepares for a live field report segment.
Caroline Sanguily (Durham Academy) prepares for her live field report segment.
NC State's Dean Phillips and COM Camp campers
Broadcast media lecturer Dean Phillips briefs Camp anchors before a newscast run-through.
COM Camp news anchors.
Campers-turned-news-anchors Dawson Place (Fred T. Foard H.S., Hickory) and Abby Martin (Johnston Co. Middle College H.S., Smithfield), strike a professional pose at the news desk.
2015 Communication Camp participants
Truly [i]Happy Campers[/i] on their final day of COM Camp.