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'It's like winning Best Picture at the Oscars': LP-A High School's 'Raider Nation News' scores big win at regional Emmys

(Front) (Left to right) Molly Dickelman, Sheena Meachem, Myla Lewis, Erin Grabinger, Cassidy Holmstrom, William James III, Jenna Braseth, Benjamin Carson, and Elise Whitehead (Back Row) Michael Vohnoutka, Mitchell Hall, Samantha Dahlgren, Elsa Larson, Michael Donovan, Ethan Schermer, Joseph Peterson, and Anthony Lage. (Not Pictured) Eli Bjerken, Alexa Carlson, Alec Korby, Rileigh Leininger and Savanah Schindler. (Submitted photo) 1 / 6
These are the four "Crystal Pillar" awards that Lake Park-Audubon High School's Raider Nation News picked up at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Upper Midwest Chapter Student Production Awards this past Friday in Bloomington. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)2 / 6
Lake Park-Audubon High School mass communications teachers Laureen Swobodny and Kathryn Anderson try to make the experience of producing the "Raider Nation News" monthly video magazine as close to a real television broadcast as they can, with professional grade audio and visual equipment. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)3 / 6
Pictured in the front row, from left to right: Myla Lewis, Elise Whitehead, William James III, Erin Grabinger, Ben Carson, Eli Bjerken, and Sheena Meacham. Back row: Savanah Schindler, Kathryn Anderson (instructor), Michael Donovan, Laureen Svobodny (instructor), Elsa Larson, Rileigh Leininger, Jenna Braseth, Mitchell Hall and Jake Sherbrooke. (Submitted photo)4 / 6
Lake Park-Audubon High School students Erin Grabinger and Alec Korby prepare to anchor an upcoming broadcast of "Raider Nation News." After it's shown in school, each month's broadcast is then archived on the LP-A school website. (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)5 / 6
Lake Park-Audubon High School mass communications students Elise Whitehead and Michael Donovan won a Crystal Pillar award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Upper Midwest Chapter for their fictional film, "The Mystery of the Lost Cookies." (Meagan Pittelko/Tribune)6 / 6

Last Friday was a red letter day for the students of Lake Park-Audubon High School's mass communications class — and it wasn't because they were wearing their school colors.

In fact, the group of 15 (out of a class of 20) who made the trip to the Bloomington Crown Plaza Aire hotel were predominantly dressed in business casual attire, as they were representing their school at the 2017 Upper Midwest Regional Student Emmy Awards.

But that didn't stop them from screaming, cheering, whooping and hollering every time one or two of their names was called for an individual award — and particularly at the end of the ceremonies, when "Raider Nation News" was named the winner for Best Newscast.

"They just erupted," said instructor Laureen Swobodny, who co-teaches the school's mass communications class with Kathryn Anderson.

"We were all holding our breath, and when we won, we screamed," said Erin Grabinger, a senior at LP-A this year. "I think we were unofficially deemed the cheering-est school there."

"You mean the loudest," said Swobodny with a laugh, noting that taking the Best Newscast award is "like winning the Best Picture Award at the Oscars."

In all, LP-A brought home four "Crystal Pillar Awards," as they are called, out of a total of nine nominations: Not bad for a northwest Minnesota school district that houses roughly 700 students in grades K-12.

In fact, LP-A tied with Apple Valley High School and Eastview High School — both located in the Twin Cities suburb of Apple Valley, Minn. — for the most wins overall. The three schools each took four awards during the ceremony.

Besides Best Newscast, LP-A's "Raider Nation News" — the monthly video magazine that can be viewed on the school's website, — also won awards for Best Fictional Story, Best Music Video, and Best Public Affairs/Community Service Story.

"We're tickled that they did so well," says Swobodny. "It's great to see these guys recognized for their creativity and professionalism."

Kathryn Anderson, who began co-teaching the mass communications class with Swobodny last year, echoed her sentiments. "We're so proud of them," she said.

Anderson, who worked as a photojournalist at Fox News (KVRR) in Fargo prior to joining the staff at LP-A, said that she was a student teacher at the school while she was going back to school to earn her credentials as an educator.

"They had an opening, so I swooped right in," she said. "I'm so glad I'm able to use my skills from my previous career to help these kids."

She said that they have elected to keep "Raider Nation News" as a monthly product, in order to give the students the time they need to flesh out the stories that they produce. "We want to make sure our students are putting out a quality product."

It's a strategy that's obviously worked for them. Since Swobodny's class first began producing "Raider Nation News" four years ago, the students have garnered a total of eight Crystal Pillars — including this year's haul.

"We doubled our Emmy total this year," Swobodny said with a grin.

And they might not be done yet: Students who win Regional Emmys are eligible for the national awards, which are given out annually by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). Emmy winners from each of NATAS's 19 regions are automatically advanced to the national competition, and judging will occur over the summer months, with nominees to be announced prior to the National Student Production Awards ceremony in October. For more information, please visit the website at, or the NATAS National Student Production Awards page on Facebook.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454