Students Making Announcements

New Voices, New Tools: Students Take Over Morning Announcements
Posted on 04/21/2021
Maplewood Student Announcements

On the March day when students came back for in-person learning after a year away, Maplewood High School Principal Sonya Brooks turned on the intercom system to give the morning announcements, just like she always had, just like generations of school leaders before her.  

Then she thought back to the previous year of classes and meetings on Microsoft Teams’ videoconferencing system – and the fact that about half of her students were still learning from home.  

“It dawned on me that I had this virtual platform,” Brooks said.  Two female students

With technology presenting a new vehicle for announcements, combined with her own interest in being present in the hallways in the moments before classes started, Brooks turned to another source to get the Maplewood community up to speed every morning: students.  

Enter junior Brenivye Richardson and sophomore Elizabeth Castillo, the two Student Government Association members and class officers who stepped up to deliver the announcements from a conference room in the school’s main office.  

“Good morning, Panther Nation!” Brenivye said into her computer’s camera the morning of April 14, with Castillo by her side at a long oval table, laptops open in front of each of them, and the Teams meeting they were leading displayed on a large screen behind the pair.  

Several Schools Enlist Student Announcers 

Maplewood isn’t the only school putting announcements in students’ capable hands. At Bellevue Middle School, a core group of students records announcements and sends them to teacher Lisa Young, who compiles them in a daily “WBMS-TV” video, Principal Seth Swihart said. 

One recent day featured Easter-themed jokes from a teacher and student; a student’s visit to the Nashville Zoo; Swihart’s own announcements about wearing masks properly and staying in assigned seats in the cafeteria, and his son’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four predictions.  

With some students at school and some at home, watching the announcements is one of the only things all students have in common right now, Swihart said.  

“It’s a unifying piece of our culture,” he said. “It’s kept kids connected to school. And it’s given them an outlet to support the school and express their talents in a way that maybe they didn’t have before. In a very challenging year, it’s the one thing that’s been consistently great.” 

Thurgood Marshall Middle School also recently started incorporating students into morning announcements and plans to have them take over in 2021-22, Principal Joseph Gilkes said.

Ron Smith, a restorative practice assistant who produces the school’s "The AM” show, said the plan is for students to “serve as the content creators, producers, videographers, lighting techs, and lastly the on-air talent, all overseen by myself and other staff members.”  

“We feel this is a good way to unlock the potential of those students that may have an affinity to the media arts and maybe those who have on-air aspirations,” Smith said. “When students see themselves on the screen either as the talent or being highlighted, it brings a level of pride to their lives as well as making it less likely to want to hide or feel like they are unseen.”  


Leadership Opportunities

Back at Maplewood, Elizabeth and Brenivye moved through a moment of silence, the Pledge of Allegiance, a quotation from the late poet Maya Angelou, and reminders about logging into Schoology, public health guidelines, and the dress code – which the Student Government Association worked with Brooks to develop.  

Then it was time for a handful of teachers and coaches to talk about upcoming testing, a track meet, congratulations to the Class of 2021’s valedictorian and salutatorian, and more.  

“Thank you, everyone, and have a wonderful Wednesday,” Elizabeth said as they wrapped up.  

Brenivye, who gets to school 30 minutes early each morning to prepare, said having students make the announcements creates a “positive vibe” for everyone.  

“It gives you a better way of having school spirit,” she said.  

Elizabeth said her role has helped her become more comfortable in front of an audience.  

“Since I’m a shy speaker and I stutter sometimes,” she said, “it helps me be a more fluent speaker.” 

Brooks said the new set-up has worked well, and she knows these students and future announcers will benefit for years to come. It’s part of her ongoing effort to find new leadership opportunities for Maplewood students.  

“I believe it prepares them,” Brooks said, “to become the leaders that they’re destined to be.” 

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