Celebrating Houston's MasterMinds

We pass on a bit of luck to the recipients of our first creativity awards

Her photograph Somewhere I Call Home is a captivating portrait of youth in Texas. Shot in one of the Fodice School classrooms, it depicts a little girl dressed as a princess, sitting on a chair with a jambox in her lap. A shirtless little boy stands at attention nearby, the barrel of his Red Ryder BB gun resting against his shoulder. There's a rack of antlers on the wall above the girl's head, and two flags (one U.S., one Texas) hang vertically in the background, flanking the princess. It's a nostalgic and haunting image that perfectly represents the artists' mission and the historical implications of the Fodice project. For Anderson, there was even a personal reference. "I built that whole photograph around the jambox the little girl is holding, because I had one exactly like that when I was her age."

Anderson tells another childhood story that relates the couple's passion for art and their concern for truth and transparency, especially as it relates to the Fodice School. As a child, Katy was watching a black-and-white television show with her mom, and Katy said, "I'm so glad I was born in color." And as she remembers, she adds, "'Cause it would suck to be born in black-and-white." — Troy Schulze

Broadcast Academy,

Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, Clinton Hopper and Amy Hopper started Nova Arts Project in 2005.
Daniel Kramer
Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, Clinton Hopper and Amy Hopper started Nova Arts Project in 2005.
Nova Arts Project has introduced theater to new audiences with shows such as The Joy Luck Club, with Wanda Choi, Becky Seo and Hannah Lee.
Jenni Rebecca Stephenson
Nova Arts Project has introduced theater to new audiences with shows such as The Joy Luck Club, with Wanda Choi, Becky Seo and Hannah Lee.

Hightower High School

The Broadcast Academy at Hightower High School is at the far east end of the school's campus, and students rush to the studio each morning for classes.

It's the end of the fall semester, and about a dozen of the students are responsible for a live news broadcast that's aired through the school. Before the show it's a typical scramble scene: teenagers yelling and dodging each other to set up lights, massive cameras and a jungle of cables.

Another group of students is working on other projects, including a 30-minute­ community television program for Houston's Channel 55 and a documentary about the disappearing wetlands in Fort Bend County.

"It gets pretty tough," says J.C. Garcia, a junior who also plays baseball for Hightower. Garcia wasn't accepted into the Broadcast Academy his freshman year, so he took two years of classes as a ­sophomore.

"Balancing between baseball practices and getting my work done here on time is rough," he says.

Ted Irving, who runs the Broadcast Academy, also works on these projects outside of school, on his own time. He used to have a staff of four teachers, but that was dropped to two after the school cut some funding to the program. Now Irving teaches and handles administrative duties like setting budgets and writing grant proposals.

It makes for a busy schedule, considering he also teaches part-time at Houston Community College and does some freelance video production.

Motivation comes easy working with kids, he'll say, but he also says that many of his students will never work in the industry or even study broadcast or video production in college.

"These days, the American kid is not really into physical labor and science, and that's what we teach. If you look at guys in construction out there working, we're not far behind," Irving says. "Kids get worn out by the time they're seniors."

Still, Irving has advanced the program since he came to Hightower in 1999, one year after the school opened and the academy was created. The work produced by his students has won awards that include 14 national Telly Awards and an Emmy for a 60 Minutes-style program about breast cancer.

On a recent morning, Irving works with students in a hallway outside of the studio, helping them position light poles and secure them with sandbags, and roll out extension cords for all the equipment needed to shoot a couple minutes of video.

Garcia watches as Irving demonstrates how to film a panning shot, mounting a camera on a cart that rolls down the hall past the students.

"This makes me want to go in the business more and it keeps me interested," Garcia says.

Before Irving came to Hightower, he worked as a cameraman and news editor for the Fox, ABC and NBC affiliates in Houston.

He volunteered as a teacher when he was in college and taught some at Yates High School while still working at the local stations. Then he was offered the job at Hightower.

One former student is Doug Delony, who does the "My Tech Guy" segment on Fox 26 News in the morning, and three other former students work at Channel 2 News — two as editors and another as an assignments desk manager.

"Most of them want to be in front of the camera, but that's not what it's all about," Irving says. "They learn there are so many jobs and careers on the other side of the camera."

Savannah Fields, a junior, entered the Broadcast Academy because in middle school, she wanted to be a talk-show host. After three years in the program, she decided she likes video editing more.

"As I did it, I became more interested because I learned how to do it right," Fields says. "When I am on camera, I get really nervous and tongue-tied, but it'll be great experience for me when I apply for colleges."

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