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Maples students ready for their close-ups

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Everything is quiet on the set as Paul
Ramones awaits his cue.

Ramones, host of the Channel 7 Oaks’ current events program What’s Up Maples, stands in front of a green screen while pre-taped interviews play on monitors both in the control room and on the studio floor. It’s a professional setup. The students know they have a deadline for this show, one of their newest offerings, and the operation runs like clockwork.

Channel 7 Oaks, now in its second year, is a program at Maples Collegiate which evolved out of the school’s film and broadcasting program (although it operates independently from it). Entirely student-led, a total of around 70 students develop programming and act both as on-air talent and behind-the-scenes technicians, doing everything from camera work to editing and directing.

"How the system works, the kids do all the work," said teacher and program director George Budoloski.

Much of the equipment they use, he said, has been donated, but it’s capable of letting the students "do anything," he said. Budoloski said Channel Seven Oaks has grown by leaps and bounds since it was launched.

"We kind of started to explode from last year," he said, noting he and fellow director Marshall Mays were recently awarded the 2012 Manitoba School Boards Association’s Premier Award for Innovation.

"It’s great, we’re ecstatic," Mays said of the program’s progression.

"We’re just enjoying the process and always trying new things."
Channel 7 Oaks’ content is broadcast to the world via the Internet, some of it live.

In addition to developing their own slate of programs, the showrunners at Channel 7 Oaks are also responsible for recording the school’s major events. Their studio is directly wired to the nearby gym and theatre, putting students in prime position to tape programming such as the school’s recent stage production of Toad of Toad Hall.

The students involved all have "official" titles, but they’ve long since developed reputations based on the roles they play as part of the studio’s own unique culture. Among them is Grade 12 student Blaine Davidson. Budoloski describes him as the guy who "runs the world."

"Great environment, and it was really cool having this live Internet deal, having these live shows," he said of his inspiration to join the channel at its inception.

Gurpreet Dhaliwal, like many of the students involved in the program, wears several different hats during the course of a year. She is currently inputting information into the teleprompters, but has been a camera operator as well.

"I’ve done everything here, whatever I’m asked to do," she said.

An interest in media and broadcasting made her walk through the door, and it’s a career plan she intends to pursue after graduation.

"I’m just into media and broadcasting things. Even when I was studying in India, I was into. . . . recording things of teachers," she said.

Among the program’s benefits is its ability to reach an audience outside of the school.

"It’s incredible outreach," Budoloski said.

"People can go on the Internet and watch what happens in this school."

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