“Okay, have a seat. Let’s do this; let’s do this,” Derek Washington says to a roomful of Rancho High School students eager to make a newscast.
Washington lays out the day’s plan: The smartphone-based news crew will record bumpers promoting its first episode, which will air on YouTube and be distributed across several social-media accounts. Called RamtasticTV, the extracurricular show is produced by 10th graders of color, a mix of magnet and special-education students focusing on school bulletins, youth issues and interviews with local guests. On this day, a speaker named Lisette emphasizes the importance of personal appearance, and brings blazers for reporters to wear.
“Everything that’s on a news report, we’re trying to do here,” says producer Monserrat Lopez, naming news, politics, sports and comedy as RamtasticTV staples.
“This is news for the students by the students,” public relations specialist Synnamin Finley adds.
The group formed a month ago when Washington, a political activist with a background in TV, spoke to world history teacher Reuben D’Silva’s class. D’Silva tries to instill in his students the three C’s: college preparedness, careers and civic engagement, with an emphasis on guest speakers to shake things up.
With RamtasticTV, Washington hopes to empower the students to shape their own conversation, and expose them to community issues and positive role models. “The kids don’t always get listened to, but here they get to choose what to say,” he says.
“I got inspired,” says entertainment producer Mauricio Loya, who set the project in motion. “I like making people laugh, and I wanted to do more.” Anchor Osman Kargbo aims to establish credibility. “We want to create a functional news network that you can trust,” he says with an air of professionalism beyond his years.
As for how RamtasticTV fits in with the school’s existing TV station, D’Silva says: “Ram News does daily announcements. They’re like local News 3. This is like your HBO special.”