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Cool Schools: Students highlight school in new digital production program

MARCELLUS, Mich. -- 

Students in Marcellus High School are branching out and learning real-life skills in a brand new digital production program. 

Teacher Tanya Lillie took a video production class of eight students and turned it into a digital and multimedia production class of around 20 students that is now a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program. 

In January of 2017, the school was awarded the Midwest Energy's Strengthening School's Grant. That allowed the school to purchase camera and lighting equipment for the video production class. 

But since then, Lillie has been working to make the class an approved CTE program. 

In December of 2017, that dream came true. Lillie says it was exciting to find out the program was approved. And although she teaches other CTE programs, she says this one is special. 

"It was my baby," she said. "It was my opportunity to take something and develop it into something more, so I have a real passion for it."

That passion shines through as Lillie pushes the students to try new things and creates opportunities for them to branch out in their skills. 

Principal of Marcellus High School, Lynn Wagner, says all the student's needed was a leader. 

“Honestly Mrs. Lillie has really made a huge difference," said Wagner. "She’s very innovative and very creative and she is a go getter. And when you have students like we have here in Marcellus who are willing to go the extra mile, who are willing to take a chance, and willing to step outside their comfort zone, you take it and run with it. And that’s exactly what she’s done and the kids are just rising to the occasion.”

The class now covers everything from shooting and editing video, to web design, to even creating greeting cards. 

Lillie says after one semester of going over the basics of the software, she lets the students branch out and find their niche. 

The class produces the school's daily video announcements. Some students are working on special projects, including the school's first student newsletter. 

But Lillie says the class goes beyond just technical skills. She's seen the students interpersonal and communication skills blossom as well. 

"I have students who would not have spoken in front of me. I didn't even know if I knew what their voice sounded like, who are in front of cameras, doing announcements, editing, directing other students and teaching each other," she said. 

Wagner says it has been amazing to watch the transformation.

"Students have come out of their shells and are just shining stars," she said. "It's amazing."

Even students who do not plan to pursue a career in digital media find the class beneficial. 

Andrew Pachay is an 11th grade student in the class. He says even though he plans to go into agriculture, he is learning social skills in the class that he will be able to utilize later on. 

"Speaking to people, interviews, or like giving presentations. That kind of stuff will help drastically," he said. 

And the students are already branching out, hoping to highlight their school and shine a spotlight on its stories. 

"Some of our students are working on CTE promotional videos for the state level actually," said Wagner. "We have a Marcellus Community Schools promotional video that another student is working on."

The students want to show how the class and the school is improving. 

"It's a unique blend of students and it keeps me motivated and keeps me driving," said Lillie. 

She says her next step for the class is to write a grant in hopes of purchasing a bigger video camera for the students so they can highlight the stories happening behind the walls of the high school. 

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