Reaching 4 Excellence: High school students tune in to sports co-hosting radio show

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Some of the biggest, most popular shows on TV and radio center on sports.  And countless viewers and listeners dream of being the person at the microphone and in front of the camera doing those shows.  This week’s FOX 4 Young Achievers turned that dream into reality and got a jump start on their goal to become stars in big time sports broadcasting.

“Hi.  Welcome to Young Gunz Radio,” said James Stanley sliding up to a microphone in the ESPN 1510 radio studio in Leawood.

And that’s how it began for James and co-host Chris Venzon each time the “On Air” light came on.

“What’s on the slate?” asked Chris early on in one of their shows.

“We have track and field, girls tennis, baseball,” James replied.

Six times this past spring, Chris and James did their show, Young Gunz, an hour of talk and news and interviews, mostly about sports at Blue Valley School District high schools; two high school seniors planning, preparing, producing and hosting a real radio program, live.  They even got advertisers for the show.

“We’re not out to get ratings,” said James.  “We’re doing it to get experience.  And the best way we learned was through failing, like with our very first pilot.”

That first show was rough.

“I thought I knew everything (about doing a radio show)," said Chris. “But no, we knew squat walking into this thing in retrospect.”

But working closely with Union Broadcasting VP Gary Hailes and his staff, who provided James and Chris the opportunity to do their bi-weekly program, they got more and more polished.

“I wouldn’t say we’re experts now but we know a lot more and that’s what we set out to achieve,” said Chris.

James and Chris created their Young Gunz radio show as a major project for CAPS (The Center for Advanced Professional Studies), which is the Blue Valley School District program that puts high school juniors and seniors in real world learning environments and links them with professionals and experts in business and community.  It prepares the students for success in college and career.

“The actual radio show itself, they are in control,” said Bruce McRoberts.

McRoberts is media teacher at Blue Valley Southwest High School and the coordinating instructor for CAPS multimedia journalism.  James and Chris already were doing high level sports broadcasting at different Blue Valley high schools.

“They have very high aspirations for themselves,” said McRoberts, who partnered them to do Young Gunz.

“I don’t think you can put a price tag on it, honestly,” said McRoberts about what James and Chris got out of doing the show.  “This gives them something on their resumes’ that honestly, I don’t believe, Phil, to my knowledge, any other high school broadcaster in the country has ever worked a radio show in a prime time situation.”

Now, empowered by the experience of doing real live radio under the gun, these Young Gunz are excited about moving forward to reach their dream jobs. James' is doing play-by-play for big time college and pro sports.

“It made me learn I really love this,” said James.

And Chris' is hosting national sports shows on TV and radio.

“It’s like a jump start,” said Chris.  “It’s like a fast track.”

On track.  On the air.

Chris is starting out this fall at Syracuse University and James will be at the University of Missouri.  Both universities have very prestigious, top-flight broadcast journalism schools.

Meantime, Blue Valley CAPS is hopeful of getting another year with Union Broadcasting for another student radio show.  And the CAPS model is spreading beyond the Blue Valley School District.  Seven districts north of the river on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area have established a similar program and 13 others are in place in nine states.  Blue Valley just last month hosted a conference of those programs to get a national network moving forward.  See http://www.bvcaps.org/s/1403/hs-redesign/start.aspx for more information on CAPS.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments.  In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.  Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

Phil Witt, FOX 4 News