The Houston Press Mastermind Awards: Last Year It Brought Hightower Great Luck

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For at least one winner of last year's Houston Press MasterMind Awards, the accolades continue.

The Hightower High School Broadcast Academy, which received a $2,000 prize in the Press's 2009 MasterMind contest, was recently awarded three separate grants that will help Ted Irving and his students keep doing projects that are, as we put it last year, "both technologically advanced and ethically impressive."

"I apply for a lot of these grants," Ted Irving, director of Hightower's Broadcast Academy, tells Hair Balls. "And I've been flopping on the grants until about two and a half years ago, and all of a sudden my lucked changed. We've been getting quite a few grants."

One grant came from the Sienna Plantation Community, a large subdivision in Fort Bend County, for a public service announcement titled, "Recycling for Teens," produced by Irving's students. That piece is part of a larger recycling campaign, where people donate things like old cell phones, mp3 players and digital cameras to the Broadcast Academy, which then recycles the stuff. The money funds two scholarships that are given to seniors graduating from the academy.

The academy also recieved $1,000 from the Kids in Need program and $800 from Target, which Irving will use to take his students to Houston's VT2 Studios and Channel 13.

"Every district in Texas, because of the economy, has had a drop in funding and they usually cut things like field trips," Irving says.

Irving came to Hightower in 1999, a year after the school opened and the broadcast academy was created. His classes have produced work that has won 14 national Telly Awards and an Emmy for a 60 Minutes-style program about breast cancer.

Each year, close to 300 students try to get into the academy, but only 45 new applicants are accepted.

When Irving and his students won a MasterMind Award last year, some of his students were working on a 30-minute documentary about the disappearing wetlands in Fort Bend County. That project was three years in the making; Irving came up with the idea during his morning commute to Hightower, through heavy construction, and started thinking about what happens when developers raze and build over the land. 

The wetland documentary was screened at the Angelika Theater during the summer of 2009 and aired on Channel 11. You can also see that film on Hightower's School Tube

Irving used the $2,000 MasterMind money to fund a banquet where scholarships were awarded to Broadcast Academy graduates and to help get the wetland documentary on television.

"The showing on Channel 11, we had a lot of people see that," Irving says.

The Press is handing out $2,000 MasterMind Awards again this year, and the winners will be honored on Saturday January 30, 2010 during our Artopia Party at Winter Street Studios. And be sure to check out our Artopia Preview Party on January 15, 2010 at Reign Lounge.

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