By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
The Notre Dame High School Student Broadcast Program last week was named “Best New Student Broadcast Program” in the country by the National Federation of High Schools Network at its 2016 annual awards show.
NDHS’s Irish Online Network (ION) is the name of the winning student broadcast program that began in August as a way to broadcast sports and other school-related activities. The program is an extracurricular activity.
The ION crew of four students conducted more than 50 broadcastsranging from the homecoming parade and school Masses, to sports, including football, baseball, soccer, basketball and cheerleading. The program teaches students broadcast skills, camera work, graphics and more.
As a volunteer at the private Roman Catholic high school in Clarksburg, veteran broadcaster Reuben Perdue originated and spearheaded ION, which is part of the NFHS Network of more than 1,500 programs in the country. (Perdue is also The City of Shinnston’s Community Development Director.)
“We’re thrilled to get the award,” Perdue stated. “It’s quite an honor for us. It’s not often you get to say you’re the best in the country.”
He explained why he believes ION won the award: “If you go back to the first broadcast we did and compare that to what we’ve done more recently, you can see a tremendous growth and improvement. I think it comes down to a passion for the project. Every student that we have involved has worked very hard from Day 1. And I think that hard work and their commitment to the program were the biggest driving factors.”
Maggie Weeman from the NFHS Network spoke directly to ION about why it was named the winner: “You were chosen because you went above and beyond the expectations of a typical School Broadcast Program member school…and all within your first year. Not only did you help us produce NFHS Network events, but the fervor and dedication you’ve put behind the ION really impressed everyone at the company.”
NDHS Director of Advancement Ian McAra and Jason Young of The Vintage Theatre in Clarksburg help with the program.
“I’m extremely proud of all the students involved, and I’m glad that the hard work they have put into the program is being recognized,” McAra stated.
The ION students are Andrew Rogers, Alex Altenburg, Christian Palmer and Michael McAra, Ian McAra’s son.
Perdue, who had been involved for three years with the school’s soccer team, said initiating a Student Broadcast Program at NDHS came about after discussing the issue with the elder McAra.
“I talked to Ian about a way to start a broadcast program at the school,” Perdue reports. “When we found out we had a couple of students interested in that, Ian gave me the go-ahead to explore some options.”
(Ian McAra knew a couple of students were interested in sports broadcasting – Andrew Rogers and Alex Altenburg.)
Perdue said with the OK from McAra, he sought out the national group.
“I reached out to the NFHS Network and they had a program that made this a perfect option for us, and NDHS gave me the go-ahead to start the program,” Perdue explained.
A short time later Christian Palmer and Michael McAra came aboard.
“We started out with two students and quickly brought in two more, and we’re hoping to bring in even more as we progress,” McAra said.
Perdue, who has won several broadcasting awards during his 24-year career in TV and radio, started his interest in broadcasting at his alma mater, Bellefontaine High School in Ohio.
McAra said there wouldn’t even be a program let alone an award if not for Perdue, who also came up with the name “ION” and designed its logo.
Commenting on the award, McAra remarked, “All the credit needs to go to Reuben for the success of the program this first year, and to the students as well, of course. He is the driving force behind the program.”
Perdue said that there is a good possibility for the program to evolve from its present extracurricular status to an actual credit-class, which he would teach.
“Right now we’re in talks about launching the program next school year,” he reports. “What we’re doing now would not change, we’d just be adding to it.”
McAra echoed the plan to grow the program and branch out into other broadcast content. “We’d like to add to our events-focused broadcasts and have a news show as well,” he stated.
“The goal is to produce a weekly show,” Perdue said. “The sky is really the limit for what we can do with this program given the right circumstances. We can do a lot with ION, and Notre Dame has given their students a great opportunity to pursue new careers.”
NDHS is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.