This spring, North Canton Hoover High School Video Journalism students will hit the road in their new, state-of-the-art "Mobile Storyteller".
The Mobile Storyteller is a traveling video lab in a motor coach, equipped with collaboration-style seating for 22 students and outfitted with state-of-the-art documentary equipment including cameras, editing stations and laptops. This $285,000 project is funded through grants from the Hoover Foundation, the Henry and Louise Timken Foundation, the State Farm Youth Advisory Board and a donation from Blackmagic Design Corporation.
Its purpose is to provide a high-impact, career-based, hands-on experience for students as they work to preserve history and the arts in the community and build cultural awareness through digital storytelling.
"The experience begins the moment the vehicle hits the road and continues for the duration of the trip," said Tom Wilson, Coordinator of District Media and Director of the Video-Journalism Program at North Canton Hoover High School.
"Learning can happen over the course of an evening, a weekend, or a week, as the Storyteller travels to special events and extended career exploration tours."
The idea for the Storyteller was born nine years ago, when Wilson brought a group of students to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, using a similarly outfitted executive motor coach to capture and tell the story of a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
"We spent a week working in what looked and felt like a post-war zone producing a documentary about the long recovery process for people in the community," Wilson said.
Wilson and his students returned to Bay St. Louis that same year for the premiere of Pieces of Paradise: Rebuilding Bay St. Louis in their school's partially Constructed cafeteria.
The documentary also aired on several PBS affiliates and received an Emmy nomination from the Great Lakes Region of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
"It has been my goal to see this project come to life for our teaching program ever since my students had the experience in Bay St. Louis," Wilson said.
According to Wilson, the true benefit of the Mobile Storyteller is it redirects students back into their community to find ways that effectively reconnect people.
"The information they gather can be shared through digital storytelling techniques that students are learning along the way," he said.
This is not the first time the community has partnered with the school to support the work of the video journalism program. In 2013, The Hoover Foundation, Henry and Louis Timken Foundation and Herbert W. Hoover Foundation came together to help fund the $316,000 renovation and upgrade of the school's 10-year-old production facility, infrastructure and equipment.
Wilson and his students began working on the grants needed to support the Mobile Storyteller a year ago.They were thrilled to learn this week that they had secured the funding they needed.
"We are so incredibly grateful to our grantors and sponsor for providing us with the means to make this dream a reality for our students and our community," he said.
Wilson plans to purchase the vehicle this September and spend the next five months having it built out and customized to the project's specifications. As soon as it is complete, video journalism students will begin using it to tell the stories of those in our community and beyond.
"This year marked the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina," Wilson said. "Imagine being able to take our students back to Bay St. Louis in our new Storyteller and continue the story from where we left off."
Attending OETC this February? You might get a first look at NCCS' Mobile Storyteller! Watch for more details as we get closer to the event.