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LP-A Senior Emily Sunram, left, interviews Sarah Panzau, a drunk driving survivor who lost her arm in an accident, for a segment of "Raider Nation News." Submitted Photo

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When the new Lake Park-Audubon High School opened its doors to students for the first time this past fall, English instructor Laureen Svobodny began to teach her first mass communications class.

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“It’s one of the new course offerings that was made possible by our new school,” she says.

“It’s long been a dream of mine to expand our communications department.”

Mission accomplished. Svobodny now has a fully functional production studio conveniently located adjacent to her classroom.

“In the old building, we didn’t have the space, or the technology,” she says.

Now, the students even have an “anchor desk” for putting together their own news broadcasts.

“My husband built the anchor desk and set,” Svobodny says. “He donated the time and materials. I had a vision for what I wanted, and he made it happen.”

The 20-odd students in Svobodny’s mass communications class also helped to put together the studio, along with LP-A district resident Dean Olson, a former television production director at Concordia College who is now retired.

“He (Olson) has generously helped hook up all the technology for us — he plugged in everything and made sure it worked,” she adds. “And some of our community members also donated equipment for us.”

Though much of the lighting and other effects are of the “no frills” variety (“I got those lights at Menard’s,” Svobodny says, pointing to the flood lights used for the anchor desk and studio set), the students have everything they need to produce their own monthly video news magazine, the “Raider Nation News.”

“We even have a green screen,” Svobodny says, pointing to the bright green curtain hanging on one side of the studio. When used as the backdrop for shooting video, it can be adapted to insert a variety of background landscapes behind the live action.

The students are now in the midst of putting together the fifth edition of “Raider Nation News.” The first episode was completed in November, Svobodny says.

So successful were the students’ early forays into video production that the “Raider Nation News” earned no less than three nominations for the 2013 Upper Midwest Regional Student Production Awards, offered annually by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).

 “We’re so excited,” Svobodny says — especially since the nominations are all for 2012 entries, and LP-A only had two editions of the “Raider Nation News” that were eligible (November and December).

The LP-A nominees include: “Fall Festival,” produced by Taylor Todd, John Engeseth and Andrew Erickson, which was nominated in the Arts & Entertainment/Cultural Affairs category; “Winter Survival” by Wes Jaster, Jeff Ward and Andrew Erickson, which was nominated in the Public Service Announcement (PSA) category; and Lydia Danielson, who was nominated in the Talent category based on her cumulative work as a video news reporter and editor.

All seven of the LP-A students who were nominated are seniors, Svobodny says — in fact, all of the students currently enrolled in the mass communications class are in their senior year at the school.

“The class filled up with seniors right away when we had registration last spring,” she explains, though it is not exclusively a 12th grade course offering.

Despite the fact that only seven of Svobodny’s 20 students received nominations, most of the class members will be attending the awards ceremony, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 14 at the Mall of America Theaters in Bloomington.

“Originally I had talked to just those seven kids to make arrangements to attend,” Svobodny said.

But in class one day, those who weren’t nominated pointed out that they would like to go to support their fellow students.

“Most of their parents are going too,” she added.

Though Svobodny had high hopes for the students eventually earning nominations, even she was a bit surprised that three LP-A entries were chosen this year, given the fact that only two of their shows were eligible.

“They’ve only gotten better,” she says — which means it’s possible they might achieve even bigger things next year. Currently, the students are hard at work producing the March edition of “Raider Nation News.”

On Tuesday, several of them were in the video editing phase. Lydia Danielson, Jamon Beske and Emily Sunram were working on a segment called “Sno Daze,” which obviously featured video from LP-A’s annual winter celebration of that name.

“We work in teams, and take turns reporting and shooting video,” Danielson said. “Then we all get together to edit it, bounce ideas off each other.”

“This one took about a week and a half to do,” Beske added.

Nearby, Wesley Jaster was editing a feature on the school’s mathematics department — specifically, about the ways in which its instructors have adapted modern technology for use in the classroom.

“Mrs. Klatt films her lessons on video,” Jaster  says.

Through the use of an online learning management system known as Schoology, the lessons are then uploaded to a website where students can view them, “so if you miss a class you can just watch it online,” he adds.

“And Mr. Amundson used an online source to put together his own textbook,” Jaster continues. “It saves a lot of money. The only cost was to print it on paper.”

In the video, Jaster says, Mr. Amundson notes that each printed text costs about $12, as compared to a typical textbook that would cost $60 to $100 each.

Other “Raider Nation News” segments have focused on the new high school itself, including a virtual tour, introduction to the new teachers who started at the school this past fall, and a look at the new course offerings, Svobodny said.

Another which is being edited right now takes an in-depth look at a 103-year-old resident at the Sunnyside Care Center, including her views on historic events that occurred while she was growing up.

“I’ve started telling them that they can’t just let the news come to them — they have to go out and find it,” Svobodny says.

As they are finished and uploaded, all editions of the “Raider Nation News” are archived and made available to the public for viewing at the school’s website, www.lakeparkaudubon.com, under the “Student/Parent” tab.

A full list of nominees for the NATAS Student Production Awards are is also available online, Svobodny says, at the following website: http://midwestemmys.org/20130315/2013-student-television-award-nominations.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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