Whitney High School broadcast and production program winning awards

Public service announcements posted online for fire victims
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Tucked away at Whitney High School’s Building B in Rocklin is a television studio and video production facility that looks like the home of an award-winning daily news show.

And it is.

Whitney High School broadcast journalism and film production teacher Ben Barnholdt oversees a team of award-winning students. The Whitney High School broadcasting program won the 2018 National Student Production Emmy for outstanding achievement in the commercial category and the daily news show, “Unleashed,” was nominated in the newscast category. The Emmy awards are given out by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

“We enter every year for the Emmys and this year, we finished as a finalist for newscast and won for commercial,” Barnholdt said Monday. “The 30-second commercial was called ‘Let’s Have a Debate’ and promoted the campus debate club. We also learned in October the (production team) won the Craft Award from the Student Television Network, the only gold medal recipients in the nation.”

It is Barnholdt’s 11th year teaching broadcast and film production at the Rocklin high school. He worked four years at an NBC affiliate in Reno and two years at an NBC affiliate in Las Vegas. is the site to view programs produced by Barnholdt’s students.

The Whitney High School broadcast team recently produced a series of public service announcements directing local residents to donation drives for Butte County fire victims. The announcements were posted online to Twitter.

“When the Camp Fire started, it was a normal school day,” Barnholdt said. “As the students came together, they decided they wanted to do something to help. What we do well is produce videos and tell people’s stories.”

Alyssa Pearce, 18 and a senior, is the class’ production manager.

“We interviewed people at lots of places taking donations and found out what was needed,” Pearce said Monday. “One spot was shot outside of R.C. Willey, where a donation drive was taking place. I don’t report myself but I went out with them and floated around, helping where I could.”

Barnholdt’s goal for his classes is to teach his students critical thinking skills, leadership skills and communication skills. He also emphasizes a strong belief in the Hawaiian phrase Ohana, a concept that emphasizes families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.

“No matter what, the students always stand by each other,” Barnholdt said. “It’s the reason some of the kids keep coming back; because they fit in and feel safe to make mistakes. They are students who really want to help and make an impact.”

Pearce has been in the program for three years, adding the class as a sophomore.

“I direct the daily television show. I am the production manager this year and last year, I was the assistant,” Pearce said. “My daily duties include editing the show every day; working closely with students on their videos; and making sure everyone belongs and gets help if they need it.”

“Time is the biggest challenge. There is so much to do. It’s a constant battle to get things done,” Pearce added. “I find it most rewarding. The best feeling is to turn something in on time and feel proud of what I did.”

Period one is all video production students, news production is another two periods and sports is sixth period.

“Those three classes all have a product,” Barnholdt said. “The daily show has a news feature package, a commercial and a sports package. The show doesn’t happen without the students. I don’t shoot videos and I don’t go out with them.”

Pearce did not expect to be the WCTV19 production manager when she was a freshman.

“I found a passion for it my sophomore year,” Pearce said. “It’s about making a difference and having people you can rely on. It’s more than making and editing videos.”

Barnholdt said students such as Pearce are unique.

“She is here on her Thanksgiving break, while most kids are hanging out at home,” Barnholdt said. “There is a lot of pressure. The show has to be done by 9 a.m. every day. We’ve produced more than 755 shows in 10 seasons and missed only two deadlines.”

Sarah Nevins, 17 and a senior, has been in the broadcast and production program all four years.

“Mr. Barnholdt has always pushed me to do better,” Nevins said. “His constructive criticism has helped me learn, step out of my comfort zone and become more of a leader. It’s been such a good learning experience and it’s helped me grow as a person. It is one of my favorite high school experiences.”