Fort Mill Times

Banks Trail broadcast team wins big in Atlanta

A group of underdog students in the Banks Trail Middle School broadcasting club won big at a recent national competition and proved they have what it takes to compete on a professional level.

The Howl broadcast team competed in the Student Television Networks National Competition in Atlanta in March. The group of 14 brought home a second-place finish in the Best Anchor Team competition, a second place in the Best Movie Trailer competition and a third place finish for its Natural Sound package.

Club adviser David Helms teaches English and social studies at Banks Trail. He said his students were clear underdogs heading into the competition.

“They competed against teams from all over the country, most of which were private schools and charter schools that had $30,000 budgets, and our kids have $200 budgets each year,” he said.

The money factor wasn’t the only major difference between them and the other national teams. The Banks Trail Team is the only one that competed as a club rather than a class. That means Helms sees much less of his students compared with the other schools’ advisers.

The Howl team produces a news show for the school culled from stories students gather; students do the reporting and produce the segments as well as public service announcements and commercials. Helms said the students are aware of how much harder they have to work to keep up with schools that have big budgets.

“They sometimes get down on themselves because we don’t have a lot of the professional equipment that a lot of these schools come with,” he said.

Helms relies on sponsorships and community donations to get equipment each year.

“I tell the kids at the end of the day, ‘Guys, nobody can beat your creativity. As long as you have a camera and a mic and an editing machine you’re going to be the best because it’s your ingenuity and creativity that helps win a competition,’ ” he said.

Helms said each of his teams competing ran up against some pretty tough obstacles. One team even lost its video cards and had to start from scratch. Helms said it was all a great learning experience and he couldn’t be prouder of his students.

“They persevered and got the job done,” he said. “They met their deadline and I told them, ‘you can’t win if you don’t put stuff together.’ 

Making the recent success even sweeter is that this is only the second year the team has gone to a national competition. The group took what it learned from one last year in San Diego and applied it in a big way.

“This year there were other schools that knew us by name; we made our mark,” Helms said.

Helms is already planning for next year, when the competition will be held in Hollywood.

“I told the kids, ‘The dynasty has been started and you have to pick up where you left off,’ ” he said.