A person wearing a headset is seen from behind.

Camp honors vision, legacy of longtime broadcaster to help high school students explore profession

An inaugural camp this week showing high school students the opportunities in the broadcasting profession is a gift from the foundation established in the memory of a longtime broadcaster who had a vision of helping young people explore the field he loved.

The Robert Nelson Foundation Summer Broadcasting Camp is part of a gift to Grand Valley from The Robert Nelson Foundation. Nelson, who was from Grand Rapids, was in the radio/TV business for nearly 40 years, primarily in California.

Bryant Domina, a foundation board member and relative of Nelson, visited the camp to see firsthand how Nelson's legacy and vision was being carried on through the camp, led by School of Communications faculty members James Ford and Len O'Kelly.

A person is seen through glass talking in front of radio studio equipment in a radio studio. Vinyl records and CDs are taped to the wall.
Len O'Kelly, associate director of the School of Communications, talks with high school students in The Whale student radio station.
A person smiles and gestures while talking to another person, seen from the back.
James Ford, assistant professor of journalism, broadcasting and digital media, right, talks about director cues.

Domina said the camp was the fruition of an effort started several years ago to establish in Nelson's name a scholarship and an opportunity to support high school students who are interested in broadcasting. The mission was to honor Nelson's legacy in his hometown.

"Mr. Nelson's vision before he passed was that he really wanted to help kids get started in their careers," Domina said. "The whole vision here was to help those existing students who knew this was the direction they wanted to go but also those young kids who really wanted to explore the profession."

O'Kelly said the camp allowed students to experience a taste of the skills, equipment proficiency and other training needed for the broadcasting profession as well as the opportunities offered in the newly renamed journalism, broadcasting and digital media major.

Modern broadcasters need skills to create compelling, well-produced content on multiple platforms, from a television studio to a YouTube channel, said O'Kelly, who also noted: "They need to be good storytellers. They need to be able to give voice to those who don't otherwise have access to getting their voice heard."

A person covers their mouth with their hand while laughing. A sign with the words "On Air" is in the foreground.
A person laughs while sitting in front of a microphone.
Students Lia Lin, left and Mariah Wright helped lead lively discussions during the simulated radio segments.

As he worked with students on the equipment requirements and capabilities needed before conducting a simulated radio segment, he told them radio is magical because they can describe through their words an image for listeners. He also assured them that with experience comes confidence.

On the television side, Ford discussed such topics as the elements of a well-produced story, including camera shot techniques that create visual depth and the need for audio to accompany visuals.

Ford said the goal was to introduce broadcasting to students who haven't had exposure to the field while also working on advanced concepts with students who have. Instructors focused on studio production and field production while also emphasizing the range of media platforms that professional broadcasters use for content.

Two people smile while standing in the doorway of a room.
Bryant Domina, left, of The Robert Nelson Foundation, looks on as Len O'Kelly and students discuss their observations after completing simulated radio shows.

"Students need to have technical ability, as well as creative ability. I don't think it's ever been more relevant to communicate through visual media," Ford said. "There are many more demands on individuals now than there were 10 or 20 years ago, and students need to be savvy in video production, but also social media, photography and podcasting."

While going over the elements of a story done at a fitness center, student Diego Saldivar asked if the people working out in the background were bothered, leading to a discussion about fair use. Saldivar, who has had exposure to broadcasting at his high school, said he has learned more about camera work and radio at this camp, as well as how to write better stories. The stories are why he likes journalism.

"I really enjoy the interaction and the connection you can get with someone else," Saldivar said. "Making a story and watching it come to life is very inspiring."

A person wearing a headset and looking at a headset claps. Two other people are in the background.
"That's a wrap!" Jaiysa Sepulveda said while clapping hands together from the control room.
Two people smile while sitting in chairs in a simulated television studio. A person works a camera in the foreground.
Erica Large, left, and Amari Roberts, right, do a talk show segment during the camp.

Student Jaiysa Sepulveda, who works at her school's news network, said the camp offered valuable hands-on experience, new information – such as the characteristics of radio waves – and a setting where she felt comfortable asking questions.

"I definitely learned a lot of stuff that I can take with me for next year," said Sepulveda, adding that the more she is exposed to broadcasting, the more she can see pursuing it as a career. "It gives you an opportunity to be creative and do what you want to do."


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