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By Tracy CourageU of A System Division of AgricultureNov. 22, 2019
(1,021 words) (Newsrooms: with additional art at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmJxq2JT)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK – New members of the Arkansas 4-H Video Crew participated in an annual
rite of passage this week: the Video Crew boot camp. But instead of push-ups and laps,
the six teenagers who arrived at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center on Nov. 19 found
themselves running cables and setting up cameras in the quest for the perfect shot.
The Arkansas 4-H Video Crew program, now in its sixth year, teaches teens professional
video skills and puts them to work on professional projects for the University of
Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. By the time
the participants head to college — or into the workforce — they have already gained
both work experience and a professional portfolio to show to potential employers.
The program teaches basic technical skills, how to set up camera equipment, how to
safely load and unload the video equipment, and how to properly connect multiple cameras
to “switchers,” the technology that helps knit multiple video feeds into a single
seamless broadcast. Along the way, participants also learn “soft skills” — how to
collaborate and work in teams, how to plan and prioritize work and how to lead.
Kerry Rodtnick, media specialist for the Cooperative Extension Service, developed
the program in 2015, after having filmed Arkansas 4-H’s largest annual event, State
O-Rama, for several years by himself. A three-day conference, State O-Rama brings
more than 1,000 4-Hers to the University of Arkansas Fayetteville campus, where they
compete in more than 40 events.
With the purchase of a switcher and extra cameras, he was able to livestream events,
but he needed additional people for the broadcasts.
“I thought it would be great if I could train 4-Hers to help,” he said, “and the 4-H staff at
the time said, ‘Do it.’”
Angie Blacklaw-Freel, interim department head-for 4-H, said the program fits well
within 4-H’s tradition of experiential learning.
“4-H is about hands-on learning experiences through project work,” Blacklaw-Freel
said. “When Kerry approached me with this idea, I was new to my position but immediately
knew this program had the potential to help youth develop a very marketable set of
skills they could parlay into careers in TV, and film.
“Additionally, it’s saved our department money that we have been able to reallocate
to other services for youth,” she said. “To my knowledge, it’s the only 4-H program
of its kind in the country.”
The first Arkansas 4-H Video Crew began in January 2015 with six students. Some of
those first team members are now working in the industry.
William Penny III of Washington County, who was part of the first 4-H video team,
now works as part of several video crews in Northwest Arkansas. He is a crew member
and backup scheduler at the Walton Arts Center and the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion,
and also operates cameras at Arvest Ballpark for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals games.
Additionally, Penny has landed several freelance jobs as a camera operator for regional
cable network television shows.
“The Arkansas 4-H Video gave me the ability to learn so many different hugely valuable
skills in the entertainment production industry,” Penny said. “For example, the proper
way of coiling cable is an easy way to separate the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’ when
it comes to skills.
“Without the crew, I would have been thrown into the same boat as everyone else. This
has paid dividends in my credibility and reputation as a skilled worker in the area,”
he said. “At this point I have been offered so much work that I am currently scheduling
all the way into March 2020. The video crew has been a huge part of my education and
training in how to be a good and productive worker.”
Penny, who is now attending Northwest Arkansas Community College, assisted with this
year’s boot camp, where his younger brother, Weston is part of this year’s crew.
The boot camp is just the beginning. The team will get more training in the spring,
and by July, they will be ready to live broadcast the three main assemblies at State
O-Rama. The broadcast is shown live at the event itself, and streamed live on the
internet for parents and other 4-Hers not present.
The goals of the program extend beyond simple technical and social skills — it also
serves to build a confidence in its participants that can carry over into other areas
“The technical and critical thinking skills that I've gained from working with Kerry
and the crew have grown my confidence in myself and my ability to learn and do tough
things,” said Macie Smith, who attends The Delta School in Wilson. “I'm incredibly
grateful that I have access to these kinds of equipment and opportunities and access
to the kind of mentor that Kerry is.”
Six teens are part of the 2019-2020 crew. They are:
Selection is a competitive. Participants must be a senior 4-Her, between the ages
14-19, show a demonstrated interest in video and film production and be eligible to
participate in State O-Rama. The size of the video team is purposely small, ranging
from as few as five students to no more than 12 to allow for individual mentoring.
“We want teens who work hard and have proven within their respective counties that
they are trustworthy, that they will do what they saw, and that they work well in
groups,” Rodtnick said. “This is a very collaborative effort. There’s perks, but there’s
Twenty students have participated in 4-H Video Crew under Rodtnick. He’s written letters
of recommendations for many of them and helped connect them with other professionals
in the industry.
“They’ve formed their own unofficial alumni group,” Rodtnick said.
4-H is the youth development program of the University of Arkansas System Division
of Agriculture Cooperative Extensive Service. To find out what 4-H clubs are available
in your area, visit Arkansas 4-H Online or contact your county Extension office. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Tracy CourageDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com