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CHAT crew makes C-Span

Allison Moore was walking around Eastdale Mall when the call came through. Moore, along with eighth-grade classmates Michelle Harris and Whitney Strong, departed from C.H.A.T. Academy earlier that day on a field trip to Montgomery. The girls browsed through racks of clothes as they enjoyed a day away from school. Suddenly, Moore’s phone rang. She held it up to her ear and heard broadcast journalism teacher Claire Compton on the other end. Compton called to tell the girls a clip they produced would air on C-SPAN next month. Compton’s words were overpowered by shrill sounds only emitted by teenage girls.

“Were in the store just screaming, and people were looking around at us,” Moore said.

Moore, Harris and Strong’s seven and a half minute clip, “Today’s Special: No Money, Low Self Esteem, with a Side of Poor Education,” placed second in C-SPAN’s Studentcam 2009 contest. Their prize includes $1,500 to split three ways and $125 toward digital video equipment for the school.

Entries were judged by the following criteria: success in capturing the contest’s topic, quality of expression and creativity, inclusion of C-SPAN programming and inclusion of more than one viewpoint.

Their clip, which includes music and graphics, focused on the struggles 13 to 18-year-old students face each day. They interviewed C.H.A.T. students, Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan, and offered suggestions to solve the problem.

The idea for the clip just came to them. Moore said they witness the effects of poverty everyday.

“When we thinking about it, it just seemed like something going on in the school, going on in the community,” Moore said. “It was just based on surroundings.”

Moore, Harris and Strong honed their broadcasting skills in C.H.A.T.’s high-tech studio, which features a control room, anchor’s desk, multiple camera angles and two teleprompters.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning the girls broadcast a live 5 to 10 minute show, which highlights events around the school, weather, lunch, entertainment and sports. Moore produces, Harris reports and Strong anchors. These are tall orders for eight-grade students. But Compton said they pull it off week in and week out.

“What’s most rewarding is to actually see students take initiative in their education,” Compton said. “The fruit of that is what Whitney, Allison and Michelle have produced.”

Each broadcast is just part of another day at the office for the girls. Strong said there is no feeling in the world like the seconds before that camera clicks on, and the broadcast begins.

“It’s kind of nerve-racking,” Strong said. “But once you get on the camera and get used to the feeling, it’s fun.”

When some might freeze in front of the bright lights, these students thrive. Harris said she could not get enough of her face on the screen.

“I like being on camera,” Harris said.

They do not take this opportunity for granted either.

“It’s not something that they have everywhere,” Moore said. “It’s nice to be a part of it.”

While the girls said they are undecided about their future in journalism, Compton said she hopes one of her 18 advanced broadcast journalism students would continue what they learned in her classroom.

“Just one,” she said as she walked around straightening chairs. “Just one.”