Southold students raising funds to complete work on TV studio

Southold High School student Kimiko Fujita records a student newscast Monday at the school. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)
Southold High School student Kimiko Fujita records a student newscast Monday at the school. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

There’s a section of Southold High School’s tech shop that’s starting to look a lot like a communications center — complete with a television studio and radio station.

A news anchor’s desk and green screen were recently added.

Over in the next room is an open space slated to become a control room where newscasts, documentaries and public service announcements would be edited. But that equipment will cost money, and the students don’t want to wait for the district to secure funding to finish furnishing the proposed communications center. So they’ve partnered with the Southold School Educational Foundation, a nonprofit group that acts like a booster club to provide enhanced learning opportunities in the district, and launched a “SOHO TV, Film and All Things Media” campaign this month to raise money to purchase standard equipment used in broadcasting, like Apple computers with Final Cut software, a teleprompter and microphones.

Once the fundraising goal is reached and the communications center is fully operational, Southold plans to open its program to secondary students from the neighboring Greenport and Shelter Island school districts.

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The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District already has an established film and TV-media program.

David Gamberg, superintendent for both Southold and Greenport, said he believes the program is needed to provide students with opportunities to develop the latest skills in media, journalism and communications.

Sixteen students are already enrolled in the school’s new media course, “Lights, Sound, Camera, Action,” which is taught by technology teacher Jason Wesnofske and journalism teacher James Stahl.

Mr. Wesnofske said he believes the new course is popular because it provides “21st-century learning” opportunities.

“It brings learning outside the classroom where students interview and interact with people in the community,” he said.

Mr. Gamberg said students are learning broadcast and journalism skills to help them go beyond “the research paper and into the world of visual media” and prepare them for “future roles in citizenship, college and employment.”

“Students are hungry for opportunities to explore and learn utilizing visual media,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we don’t teach students traditional methods of research. In fact, good quality visual media begins with good quality stories and research. That’s the foundation in any endeavor. This just gives another avenue for exploration and expression.”

Southold school board member Judi Fouchet, a co-founder and current secretary of the education foundation, said she believes creating the broadcast facility is important because it has the potential to “reach beyond the walls of the school and provide shared opportunities for students throughout the East End community.”

“In the world we’re in right now, students need to be able to walk out of high school with a different and higher level set of skills,” she said. “We need to realize not all students are the same and, in order to keep them engaged, we need to look at different ways to reach them.”

As of Monday afternoon, about $790 had been raised toward a goal of $15,000 through a campaign on, an online donation system. In addition to, Ms. Fouchet said the foundation is accepting donations directly for the student media center, as well as for other educational programming opportunities.

Peconic Landing, a lifecare community in Greenport, has also agreed to match up to $4,000 raised through the campaign.

Bob Syron, CEO of Peconic Landing, said he’s pleased to be a part of the community’s grassroots effort and described students producing documentaries about the local community and interviewing residents about their life experiences as a win-win.

Recently, student reporters covered “spirit week” and created a horror movie for Halloween. The class is now working on a PSA to teach elementary students the importance of proper handwashing.

Junior Walker Sutton said he’s excited to see the TV studio project through to fruition and looks forward to learning how to create professional programing.

“Right now, we’re preparing for the real thing” he said. “Once we get our equipment, we’ll really start to show quality work.”

In addition to Southold’s communication center, Mr. Gamberg has had preliminary discussions with Peconic Landing and Eastern Long Island Hospital about establishing a nursing assistant program for students.

The idea of local vocational programing stems from last year’s successful relaunch of Southold’s closed-circuit radio station. The equipment had been dormant — and collecting dust — in the school’s basement for several decades. Senior Ryan DiGregorio, who helped bring the original audio equipment back to life, said that over a dozen student volunteers come in early before school starts to prepare music and news programs that stream through the district’s PA system.

Ryan said his goal is to tie the radio station together with the new TV studio to create a professional news media area.

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