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Cooper River CAS Career and Technical students excel at media technology

Charleston County School District (CCSD) students with dreams of going into the film industry or the field of communications can earn their shot if they enroll in Media Technology courses at Cooper River Center for Advanced Studies. Under the leadership of instructor James Dean, Media Technology students are creating, achieving, and living out their dreams.

The course has seen increased enrollment since its inception. Students are learning basic camera angles, video editing, still photography, Photoshop, Adobe Premier, and more in a state-of-the-art facility that rivals area television stations.

Cooper River CASDean’s nearly 25-year career positioned him perfectly for this role where his students look forward to putting their skills to work. When not in the studio, editing bay, or the classroom, students can be found around campus documenting events just like a local news crew would do. Those moments are all produced and aired during the student-run news and weather shows.

The fun does not end there. Students are treated to field trips at local TV and radio stations where they interact and connect with industry leaders and on-air personalities. 

“As a veteran in the industry, I know first-hand how important this introductory course is to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the industry,” said Dean. “I love this field of work and I want my students to see all it has to offer. Many of my students want to become script writers, directors, and producers because of the experiences they have had in our professional studios.”

Learning about everything that goes on behind the scenes is what interested Coriyona Singleton, an eleventh-grader at North Charleston High School (NCHS).

“I enjoy the editing process and would like to become a director one day,” said Singleton. “So much goes into camera angles and getting that perfect shot. It is time-consuming, but the end result is the reward.”

In addition to learning the technical side of media technology, students are learning soft skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and independent thinking. Using various types of technology and multiple learning strategies, students participate in a variety of video projects such as the basic skills, training, and ethics of broadcast news and photojournalism. This course covers the challenges faced by multimedia journalists working with still photos, audio, video, and text. 

Singleton likes the challenge of learning all aspects of media technology.

“This class is about way more than just taking pictures,” said Singleton. “It’s unique in that we are allowed and encouraged to use this expensive, state-of-the-art equipment.”

Students use industry-standard software and tools. 

“This class is very hands-on,” Dean explained. “From day one the students are holding a camera and handling equipment so that they can familiarize themselves with the technology.”

Students are encouraged to experiment with the equipment so that their work can be analyzed. This is when the learning begins. Dean demonstrates proper and creative techniques to students so they can try them in subsequent projects.

“Little by little you can see improvement as they become more comfortable with the equipment,” said Dean. “The students in this class are excited to be here and you can see that in their work.”

Olivia Salvaggio is an eleventh grader at NCHS and plans on majoring in art when she attends college. Media Technology is a compliment to her passion.

“I am learning about the tools I can utilize in art photography,” said Salvaggio. “I struggled with editing at the beginning, but I have come a long way. Using Adobe Photoshop and Premier has improved my digital media skills.”

Students earn an industry-level certification at the end of each of the four-course programs including OSHA-10, Adobe Photoshop, Premier, and FAA Trust Certification for operating a drone. They also leave with a network of mentors, connections, and opportunities for job shadowing and internships. These benefits have helped with the recruitment and growth of the program. Dean has 28 students this semester. Word of mouth and tour groups have also inspired students to enroll.

“I highly recommend taking this program if you intend to study any form of media or communication in college,” said Singleton. “We’re ahead of the curve when it comes to learning the basics. Not only are we learning from the best instructors but also from local industry leaders.”

Principal Vanessa Brown said that the Media Technology program is one of the most popular programs at Cooper River Center for Advanced Studies. 

“It is our mission to ensure our students are prepared and ready to make decisions regarding their careers,” said Brown. “The program here is aligned with all two and four-year colleges in South Carolina. Our students will be ready to begin their careers in media technology.”

Both Salvaggio and Singleton agree that Dean has a passion for what he teaches.

“He knows what he’s teaching,” said Salvaggio. “He knows the equipment, he knows the shortcuts, and he knows a workaround for almost anything. His passion for the work shows in everything he does with us, including helping us with our creative visions.”

Students are required to conceptualize projects for commercial advertisements, public service announcements, short films, how-to videos and other school and community service-driven projects using photography and video editing skills learned. Dean’s program boasts students who have won awards doing these very things.

“Mr. Dean has created a comfortable environment where we are treated like young adults,” added Salvaggio. “This is my happy place.”