In a KRWG Public Media control room, New Mexico State University student Evelyn Sandoval jots down some final notes on her director’s script as she prepares to cue her production staff for the night’s broadcast.
Sandoval, a journalism and mass communications senior, directs the student-run KRWG News 22 broadcasts in Milton Hall three nights a week. She got her start in television production as a freshman at Chaparral High School where she entered the audio and visual production pathway in the school’s career and technical education, or CTE program.
Sandoval said once she learned about the A/V program, she sought out teacher Stephen Gabaldon to tell him she was ready to commit.
“He was setting up some cables or a stage I think at the time. I went up to him, I was like ‘Hi, my name’s Evelyn,’ shook his hand and smiled at him and I was like I’m here. I want to learn. Teach me everything you can. I heard you’re in charge of the A/V club and you know, I want to learn all these skills,” Sandoval said.
Hands-on skills Sandoval said you can’t pick up from a book like lighting a set or framing a shot.
“Yes, we did quizzes and all this paperwork and homework and you know we learned from the book as well. But you can’t compare that with hands-on experience,” Sandoval said. "You know we were actually rolling up cables, connecting cameras, working with Macs, you know working Adobe Premiere Pro, editing, photography, making packages, making stories, writing stories, writing the newscasts in the morning.”
Mr. Gabaldon has been teaching in the A/V program for nearly a dozen years, which features introductory, intermediate and advanced classes. Gabaldon said he teaches his students how to produce broadcasts in standard and high definition because not every workplace has state-of-the-art equipment.
“Everyone doesn’t have the same stuff so where do we go? How do we deal with that?” Gabaldon said. “So, I try to take advantage of the tools that I do have so the students can jump back and forth between the analog and the digital world and when they go out and work for somebody else, they have a better chance of being able to deal with what they’re given.”
Gabaldon said he doesn’t limit what students learn to the classroom; covering concerts, singing competitions and practically any live event that needs a sound system, cameras or lights. He said those who take his course also learn the “soft” skills they need to navigate everyday life.
“I put the students in real world situations all the time, good or bad because every path has a puddle. It doesn’t matter what it is and you have to deal with that when you’re out at work and it doesn’t matter what job you have, you’re going to have to deal with things that come up," Gabaldon said. "My personal belief is that we should be teaching two things. We should be teaching students how to think and we should be teaching them how to solve problems because that’s how you get through the day.”
2016-2017 data from the Gadsden Independent School District reports the graduation rate among students who participated in CTE programs was 97.5 percent, significantly higher than the district-wide rate of 80 percent. CTE students also scored 3 percent higher in reading proficiency and nearly 10 percent higher in math proficiency than non-CTE students.
Gabaldon said he wants students who take his classes to embrace work and take pride in what they do, even if it’s not media production.
“They don’t have to do production and I tell them that from day one. Production isn’t for everybody but the things you learn you can transfer to other stuff,” Gabaldon said. “Just like education. I’ll come in and I’ll tell them ‘Guys and gals, college is not for everyone but education is and they’re not the same thing' and you can transfer the skills and you can be successful."
Since attending college, Sandoval has not shied from work. Along with directing News 22, she produces NMSU sports broadcasts for AggieVision and presents the weather for the school’s Spanish news broadcast, Noticias 22.
Sandoval said she always knew she had a passion to produce. She said the directing skills she gained in high school helped her understand what employers expect and allowed her to quickly move up the ranks after joining News 22.
“I already knew how to make a show look clean. A live show because there’s a difference between pre-recordings and live shows. And you know to be able to have that practice of working a live show… I advanced very quickly and there was a lot of upper classmen and I just came in as a freshman and they saw the experience that I had and I was ready,” Sandoval said. “I was just ready to be in the director’s chair, you know what I mean? Because everything else was just little small skills that I had already learned at the high school level.”
Giving high schoolers an early chance to gain the skills they need to thrive is helping Sandoval and other students produce highly at the next level.