Holy Trinity Catholic School (HTCS) has turned morning announcements into a multimedia learning experience, and students, faculty, and parents aren’t the only ones tuning in. Upwards of 600,000 people worldwide are watching students at the Dallas grade school deliver the daily HTCS Morning News show.
“I asked ‘why don’t we do something different,’” said HTC’ music teacher Brandon Smith, who oversees the Morning News show. “I wanted us to do something innovative.”
Founded in 1914, HTCS aims to provide a high-quality Catholic education for its ethnically and socioeconomically diverse pre-K through eighth-grade students. Smith aided in that mission when he came to the Uptown-area Catholic school last fall.
“The addition of the morning news show, in particular, has motivated students to step out of their comfort zones to be involved in a unique, challenging experience,” Principal Jill Fallon said.
“Mr. Smith is passionate about bringing the arts, in all forms, to our students. His energy and enthusiasm is contagious,” HTCS Principal Jill Fallon said. “The addition of the morning news show, in particular, has motivated students to step out of their comfort zones to be involved in a unique, challenging experience.”
Development Through the Creative Arts
Gone are the days of typical PA system announcements at HTCS.
Every school day, students research, produce, anchor, and film a new show, which goes live on Vimeo the next morning at 8. The show, which first airs campuswide, has two anchors, a meteorologist, and extra segments that include word of the day, science facts, and a student telling “lame jokes.” The kids on set may not know it yet, but they are engaging in a hands-on learning experience that will prepare them for the road ahead.
“Research has validated time and time again, the correlation between a strong arts program and future success in school, work, and life,” Fallon said. “Through the arts we are able to provide the well-balanced curriculum that is part of our mission.”
HTCS’ first- through eighth grade students rotate monthly, so each class gets the opportunity to learn by participating in the morning news.
“Our students are using what they learn [through the morning news] in every other subject area. It’s helping them with public speaking and they have excelled in the English Language Arts,” Smith said. “It is designed to promote college and career readiness.”
Among those students are Olivia Valadez and Luke Herda. The pair of 11-year-olds has co-anchored the morning news for the month of February. Watching the duo and their fellow fifth-graders on set makes it clear why over 600,000 viewers (and climbing) have tuned in to watch the show.
“My favorite part about our morning news is the opportunities it’ll open up for me later,” said Olivia, who wants to go to college and double major in acting and science. “My mom always tells me ‘dream until existence.’”
Olivia may already be well on her way to an acting career. Smith said that the Disney Co. has reached out to her and other students as a result of the morning news show.
“I like sharing factual information with everyone,” said Luke, who is interested in acting and also believes the academic benefits of the morning news will help him on the path to college. “I’m thinking about Texas A&M.”
In addition to teaching students through the arts, Smith and Fallon also have found that the HTCS Morning News is engaging parents, community members, and the local Catholic schools network.
“They love watching it,” Smith says. “It takes the place of a newsletter or take home flyer.”
March to a Million
Watch the accompanying episode of the HTCS Morning News and it will be easy to see why so many people are tuning in. (How endearing was the “lamest joke” segment?).
If the off-the-charts charm the students emote every episode isn’t enough reason to watch, here’s another: once the HTCS’ Morning News reaches 1 million viewers, Vimeo will open its “tip jar” for donations.
“All money will go to our school,” Smith said.
That funding will help Smith have an even greater on impact on students. And it will ensure the show is able to run for years to come.
“It makes them feel a part of something big,” Smith said. “They want to impress their community.”
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