Students in Greg Hawks’ video production classes at Pulaski County High School are getting the opportunity to showcase their work in the real world, as well as learning to apply the disciplines of the craft for the rest of their lives to come.
With six public service announcements (PSAs) currently airing in regular rotation on local CBS affiliate WDBJ7, the students are getting their finished product out to thousands of viewers. While those PSAs have been well received by the community, the students are working on more ideas for future videos and learning the importance of creating a finely polished, quality project.
“They’re learning life skills and workplace readiness skills,” said Hawks. “Those are things that we stress in all the career and technical education programs to help prepare them for life after high school, regardless of the job field they go into.”
Hawks, who has taught at PCHS since 2007, has an extensive background in video production. He formerly owned the Mount Airy, N.C. based production company “Video Works of North Carolina,” for which he produced over 300 commercials in the 15 years he ran the company.
According to Hawks, he still produces commercials to this day for broadcast outlets in the market where he used to work. With his experience, he understands the incomparable satisfaction that comes with seeing his finished videos air, and he hopes his students have experienced the same feeling.
“In comparison, being able to see my students’ work is so much more of a reward for me,” said Hawks. “It’s an overwhelming feeling, and I hope what they are feeling is pride.”
It all started last Spring, when an employee from WDBJ7 came to speak to Hawks’ class. According to Hawks, the speaker said that if they produce PSAs that are broadcast quality and have good content that the channel would air them, due to their preference for using locally produced content.
From there, the class was challenged to put their heads together and brainstorm ideas to craft a PSA that would speak to people in their generation. Their first video was about teen pregnancy, narrated by one of Hawks’ female students, and talked about the issue from the child’s perspective rather than that of the teen mother’s.
The video received emotional, positive feedback from WDBJ7’s viewers.
“One thing that really comes through to kids of high school age is truth,” said Hawks. “You can see the truth in her eyes and you hear the truth in her voice, and that was the first one that hit.”
After the teen pregnancy PSA, the station wanted Hawks’ class to make more videos for them. According to Hawks, it excited the students, and they talked about how they could take what they had already done a step further.
“In education, we’re constantly trying to find ways that we can assist students in learning,” said Hawks. “One of the things that came out in a study was how important a parent’s involvement was in the life of a child, so we started a conversation and had another brainstorming session.”
While they thought about what message their next set of videos would carry, the class asked themselves one question – “If you could say something to all parents, what would it be?”
This became the topic of some new videos produced by Hawks’ class, which were titled the “Mom and Dad” series. The end result was five videos where students urged parents to be involved and interact with their children, which Hawks’ TV 1, 2, and 3 classes produced last fall.
According to Hawks, the “Mom and Dad” series was a collaborative effort for the students, and when he challenged the class to think in deeper terms for the message they wanted to send, the results were mind-blowing.
“It was an eye opener for me, as both a parent and as an instructor,” said Hawks. “They were so honest and so direct, and I’ve had people who have seen the ads talks about tearing up when they watch them. I know the ads are effective, and I know they speak to parents. I’m very proud of the work they’ve done.”
Right now, the class is working on developing PSAs about hunger, and how the small, individual efforts of many people can make a huge impact on solving that problem. Although the idea is in a stage of early development, Hawks expects to see the idea evolve with the class.
“It’s kind of like painting,” said Hawks. “A lot of times in production you may do something, and then once you look at it, it’s not quite what you want, or what you’ve expected, and you’ll tweak it, move it, and change things a little bit, so we’re still evolving with that idea.”
As Hawks explained, it’s all a natural part of the video making process.
“There is an art, and there is a science to this whole process, and I think that’s one of the biggest surprises for students when they come here,” said Hawks. “Creating a video is a process. It involves a lot of writing, a lot of brainstorming, and you have to work without someone standing directly over your shoulder telling you what to do.”
Hawks’ students agreed with their teacher about the satisfaction of seeing their finished product on television. Hunter Neal elaborated on that satisfaction.
“It felt good being able to get out there more, and get a little bit of recognition for the hard work we put into it,” said Neal.
Another student, Bryan Brightwell, said the work they produce in those classes is a positive reflection of PCHS.
“With all the hard work, and actually seeing it out there, we’re letting people know ‘we are Pulaski, we actually care, and we actually can do stuff,'” said Brightwell.
Hawks also said that his video production classes have received a great amount of support from the teachers and administration for Pulaski County Public Schools (PCPS). At the same time, they try to be a resource for PCPS, offering to produce instructional materials for teachers, among other services.
Hawks’ video production class at PCPS was also the first in the New River Valley to produce PSAs to be aired on television, and WDBJ7 still airs their six PSAs, with more to come. Radford High School followed along shortly after, and currently has one PSA airing.
To see the work produced by the video production classes at PCHS, visit www.youtube.com/PulaskiCountySchool.