Springdale Students Creatively Earn & Learn

By Mary Jordan
Springdale Public Schools

The Springdale Athletic Foundation is working with Springdale Schools to create opportunities for students to learn while they earn by livestreaming district sports.

The foundation began livestreaming athletic events for Springdale Public Schools Aug. 25, partnering with the district to inform district families and to develop students for future careers.

“It is important to the SAF that we help the district in preparing students for the workforce after high school,” said Donald Tucker, foundation president and the “Voice of the Wildcats.” “If we can utilize well-educated students from our district and pay them for a job well done while they continue to develop their skillset, then the students, the district and our community benefits.”

The purpose of the Springdale Athletic Foundation is to enhance the quality of and interest in Springdale Public Schools athletics, Tucker said. Athletics are an important part of a student’s overall educational experience.

“Student-athletes learn the meaning of teamwork, time management and commitment,” he said. “They will be better prepared for the next step.”

Livestreaming district athletics was formerly led by the district Communications Office, which partnered with the Athletics Department in 2012 to begin livestreaming content through the Springdale Public Schools YouTube channel, said Trent Jones, district communications director.

Having the athletic foundation take over livestreaming athletics is the next natural step in developing the program for the district, continues to set a high bar for creativity and demonstrates the nonprofit's steadfast commitment to developing job-embedded skills for students, Jones said.

“I am proud of the hard work and innovation that went into creating content that engaged our community, provided real-life job skills for our young professionals and provided a platform to share critical information about the Springdale School District with the community,” he said.

Team Building

About 10 Springdale students are part of a rolling plan to broadcast about 75 athletic events this school year, which will include varsity football, boys and girls basketball and other potential sports, Tucker said.

The students are paid $15-20 per hour as to conduct the livestreams, Tucker said.

The minimum wage in Arkansas is $11 per hour, according to the Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing website.

Tucker hopes livestreaming of district events continually grows and improves as students work and learn.

“Our goal for the livestream broadcast team is to get 100% better each time,” he said. “If we can do that, we can do a better job of representing and promoting our student-athletes, our district, the Springdale Athletic Foundation and our community.”

Students receive the building blocks for developing their livestreaming skills through district production classes, said Tiffany HamiltonHar-Ber High School digital cinema teacher.

“Topics include camera operation, equipment setup and teardown, audio, video switching and workplace skills,” she said. “For some students, this is their first job. We cover how to dress, arriving early, initiative and the importance of productivity.”

Rachelle MooreSpringdale High School production teacher, said she strives to make sure students are trained and ready to enter into any part of the live event production industry following graduation.

Getting the students ready for the live event industry includes everything from camera operation to picking out the right microphone pattern for the event, she said.

“It’s more than punching between cameras,” Moore said. “That is what we do. We teach the students the skills they need to enter into various areas of digital media.”

The programs are taught by way of a three-year loop of classes, through which students build upon skills annually, she said.

“Students must complete the fundamentals and intermediate courses to apply to be a part of the livestream program,” Hamilton said. “It is mostly advanced students, however, with a good work ethic and willingness, an intermediate student could potentially land a job on the team.”

Technical, communication and employability skills are major areas of focus for students, Hamilton said.

“The job also requires working as a team, troubleshooting and working in a fast-paced environment,” she said. “We like to think we are helping to train a student to be a well-rounded employee."

The Crew

Alexej Vargas, 18, is a 2023 graduate of Har-Ber High School who now works as the home producer for the livestreams.

“I make sure we are running on time, everything looks and sounds good, make sure we are running graphics when we need to, and really anything the team needs to be the best they can be, Vargas said.

Tucker praised Vargas for his work ethic and commitment to making sure the livestreams work properly and are accurate.

Vargas gained more than 200 hours of broadcasting experience as a Springdale student, he said, and is currently attending Full Sail University Online with the anticipation of transitioning to in-person learning in Orlando, Fla., in January.

“I am majoring in film and will be graduating in May of 2025,” he said.

The district’s television production classes greatly influenced his career path, Vargas said.

“Coming into high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do and I saw the TV production class and heard good things about it so I decided to join,” he said. “Through my time in that class, I learned what my true calling was and what I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life.”

Madelyn Xaysanasy and Jude Sabatini are among the first earn-while-you-learn students to join the livestreaming team and participated in the foundation’s first livestream Aug. 25 at Wildcat Stadium at Har-Ber High School.

The 16-year-olds are both enrolled in the AV Tech Lab at Don Tyson School of Innovation and have been taking production classes through the school for four years, Xaysanasy said.

“We both wanted to get more live streaming experience,” Sabatini said. “So, this was just able to combine a lot of things we were interested in, and I thought it's something I couldn't pass up.”

To be able to earn a wage while learning real-world skills is a great opportunity, he said.

“To be able to have like a real job in a field that I'm interested in and something that I do in school, to be able to make it almost like a real-world career while I'm still in high school is awesome,” Sabatini said.

Both said they are interested in attending college after high school, and are looking at post-graduation learning opportunities throughout the country.

Sabatini said he’s interested in learning more about business and cognitive science.

“I'm also interested in business, but how businesses can impact their community here in Northwest Arkansas,” Xaysanasy said. “We have a lot of big corporations, but how can those corporations give back? Finding some career that encompasses both of those things would be awesome.”

Similar additional earn-while-you learn opportunities also exist within Springdale Public Schools in the fields of mechanics, electrical systems, educational instructional assistants and transportation, said Rodney Ellis, district workforce training director.

About 30 students participated in earn-while-you-learn positions in the 2022-23 school year, he said. The district is hoping to add additional combined earning and learning opportunities in the business and medical fields, as well as culinary arts in the future, Ellis said.

Students interested in exploring future livestreaming positions may contact Tucker at Donald@SpringdaleAthleticFoundation.org. Additional information on more district learn-while-you-learn and Career and Technical Education opportunities is available here.

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