PaliHi Receives Platinum Award


Staff Writer


In a closet at Palisades Charter High School lies one of the best school video production facilities in the country, and the students have the awards to prove it.

At the Student Television Network convention in Atlanta last month, PaliHi was one of only two schools nationwide to receive the highest honor, a Platinum Award, for their production work, which ranges from an award-winning news magazine-style show to TED talks that they produced on campus.

“I never imagined we would be one of the top schools in the country,” said teacher Sean Passan, who has shepherded the program from its beginnings as a club in 2008 when he was scrounging for equipment to its current state as one of the best programs nationwide. “You can see the progression . . . It’s such an amazing turnaround. All the hard work has been worth it.”

Passan, a history teacher in the school’s media pod, arrived at PaliHi in 2007. Soon after, he agreed to lead the production club, which evolved into a class called New Media. He continued to teach as a volunteer, and even purchased some equipment himself. The booster club provided substantial assistance in creating the “broom closet,” as the students call their production studio, which now includes several live-streaming HD systems, multiple cameras, lights and sound systems.

“The booster club is probably the only reason we exist, because they’ve been supportive since day one,” said Passan, who noted that the boosters bought the students their first two cameras, helped pay for the recent convention trip to Atlanta, and bought other needed equipment. “They’ve been great.”

PaliHi students first attended the Student Television Network convention in 2012 when it was in Los Angeles, but at that time, they didn’t enter the contests at the convention, but simply worked at the event, Passan said. Now, they and thousands of other students across the country competed not only with the work they produce at school, but also at mini-competitions during the convention. Last year, Pali achieved the gold award for its website content, and this year, the students won the highest platinum award for the first time.

The award from ESE Networks (Education Sports Entertainment) honors Pali’s website on (click on “find a school” to locate PaliHi) and included substantial prizes to further improve the school’s capabilities. The platinum award includes $12,000 in prizes and equipment, including two 4K capable cameras, a new computer, two tripods, two GoPro cameras, bags and software. In addition, an award for best commercial came with another camera as a prize.

With this influx of equipment, the class of 26 kids now will have individual mobile packs that will include an HD camera, lav microphones and other necessities, Passan said. He noted that regardless of how good their equipment is, things still go wrong with it and problem solving is an important focus of the class.

“Technology is always going to change,” said Passan, who earned his master’s in education from the University of Connecticut in 2004. “You have to have the drive” to address varied problems. “How do you work with people? How do you figure out what to do if equipment is broken? Something always breaks. It’s great and it’s terrible. How do we get around that?”

Students also take varied responsibilities in the class, so that each student is in charge of at least one thing. “They are in control in that universe, but when they are in each other’s universe, they have to be subservient to another person.”

Palisadian Caroline Vincent, 15, a sophomore, is one of the students who has enjoyed Passan’s approach. “Working with Mr. Passan is great because he really gives us the freedom to be creative and make the class what we want it to be,” Vincent said. “He’s always open to new ideas and supports us in anything we are passionate about doing.”

The youngest student in the class, Vincent produced The Current, the news magazine-style show about PaliHi that won best monthly show for the west region. The show has featured segments on the homecoming game, the annual Palisades Turkey Trot and students’ Valentine’s Day plans. Vincent also ran TEDx, which had talks on overcoming fear, the beauty of simplicity and finding your purpose in life.

The latter is part of the extra content on PaliHi’s website that Passan believes made the site stand out to the judges. “Most schools report on what other people are doing, and we actually produce our own content,” Passan said. Last year, the students broadcast not only the school’s graduation, but also two other local graduations, including Marquez Elementary’s kindergarten class, and it regularly live-streams sporting events, including four volleyball games in April and an upcoming wedding. “Most schools will do a show, and they won’t interact with the community. I think that’s where we stand out.”

The teens’ efforts have not only paid off at PaliHi. Their passion, motivation and skills have impressed colleges, earning students admission to colleges like USC, Chapman University and Emerson College. “They’re getting into these amazing schools now. They’re following their passions like they showed they were going to . . . It’s fantastic,” Passan said.


Attending the convention were (front row, left to right): Lily Kaplan, Kyla Kirshner, Caroline Vincent, Gracie Ramsey, Rosie Winchell (middle row, left to right) Adam Weston, Camilla Paleno, Erin McMahon, Danielle Wagner, Chris King and (back row, left to right) Nick Bell, Jake Truman, Sam Slavkin, Spencer Rawnsley, Joey Hirschman, Kaylee Chung, Izzy Simmons, Maury Marin, Lily Vin Ruden, Kian Farin, Chris Cheshire and advisor Sean Passan. Photo: Carter Pohill


Chris Cheshire (left) and Adam Weston display the Platinum Award. Photo: Carter Pohill


The students also visited the Georgia Aquarium. Photo: Carter Pohill

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