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KWDM Students Give Valley a Voice

Seniors John Garang and Addisin Atkinson work in the radio booth.

Seniors John Garang and Addisin Atkinson listen in the radio booth.

Staff members at Valley High School’s student radio station, 88.7 FM, KWDM, The Point, take on many tasks, from reading weather reports to crafting playlists that have something for everyone. The station has evolved with the student population over the years, resulting in an eclectic mix of music, talk radio, and sports coverage. Through all the station’s changes, one thing has endured: the students’ dedication. When the students cue songs or report live from sporting events, they know they are not only developing a lifelong skill but acting as the voice of their school.

One of the few student radio stations in Iowa, KWDM is considered modern rock. Students send classic rock mixed with alternative, pop, and indie music out over the airwaves. They also broadcast talk radio and weather reports, with live sports coverage added in during Valley High School games. Other than advertisements, all the material comes from students at the school.

“Because the station is student-run, there is not a typical day,” station adviser Janell Mikels said. “Each day depends on the students’ schedules. Introduction to Broadcasting gets to go on air as part of the class, so that changes the typical day.”

Berry and senior Ken Gisler talk a call from a KWDM listener while broadcasting.

Seniors Ben Berry, station manager, and Ken Gisler (left) take a call from a KWDM listener.

Most students involved in KWDM today come from Mikels’ radio classes. Introduction to Broadcasting provides experience in the radio room. After that, students can enroll in Advanced Broadcasting Lab. Students can repeat Advanced Broadcasting Lab to stay involved with the station, or list KWDM as an extracurricular activity. This means the station’s staff changes each semester.

Station staff from the 1990s laid the foundations for this flexible format when the station expanded its power from 10 watts to 100 watts ERP. Suddenly, the station was available all over the city; they had previously struggled to reach the surrounding neighborhoods. The students, led by then-adviser Brian Christiansen, started trying new things like live broadcasts and different types of music. They also worked to gain sponsorships for the station, raising money for anything extra they needed to create a competitive radio setup.

Jeremy Bingaman was a sophomore when the station’s power expanded. Now a radio professional sometimes known as Luke Matthews, he sees the same kind of station ownership reflected in today’s students.

“There’s always that core group of people who take care of the program,” he said. “That doesn’t always happen with an extracurricular.”

Junior Willaim Phillips reads a weather announcement his first day in the radio lab.

Junior William Phillips reads a weather announcement his first day in the radio lab.

Now, Bingaman enjoys being a guest speaker in the radio classes. He credits his KWDM experience with pointing him toward his career in radio and teaching him interpersonal and public speaking skills. He talks with students about what they can learn from the program, how it can become a lifelong career, and what it means to represent your school on air.

“I love for them to see this isn’t just an extracurricular that you do in your free time,” Bingaman said. “This is really something you could go on and do for a career. There are people who make their living and their lives off this, and it’s something they learned in high school.”

Hearing that broadcasting is a lifelong skill is valuable for students like senior Ben Berry, the KWDM station manager. He is interested in pursuing a career in radio or the Air Force, both paths that could benefit from his radio experience. Former station manager senior Maren Tuttle plans to pursue speech pathology but says her work at KWDM contributed to her interest in the subject.

“Radio is not exactly public speaking, but you’re doing it for the public,” she said. “It helps with articulation, your tone, and how you speak.”

Station manager Ben Berry, senior, assists senior Charlie Crowley, in the booth for the first time.

Berry assists senior Charlie Crowley, who is on the air for the first time.

As station manager, Berry talks with school clubs to gather new content for listeners, curates the playlists, and helps new staff members navigate being on air live. The first time students are on the radio, they complete simple tasks like reading out a weather report or other announcements. Once they are more comfortable, students may apply to be on the station’s staff. Some broadcast during football and basketball games, while others host their own talk shows.

“We want people to get something different each time they listen to the radio,” Tuttle said.

To offer up their fresh take on Valley High School life, the radio students use high-level broadcasting equipment. Bingaman compared the setup to some professional labs he’s seen.

“It’s a great environment for kids to learn in,” he said. “They’re not learning in a closet somewhere. They’re using the equipment they’ll intern on or work with.”

Junior Carter Czipar broadcasts live from Valley High School.

Junior Carter Czipar broadcasts live from Valley High School.

With alumni spread across several radio stations in the Midwest, KWDM is a proven jumping-off point for students interested in radio, public speaking, and leadership. As the voice of their fellow students, station staff learn to think on their feet, verbalize their thoughts, and work together. They display true ownership of their learning and the station itself.

“I think people don’t realize how cool and beneficial the experience of being on air, being a part of a team, is,” Berry said. “I don’t think I will ever regret being a part of the station. I gained knowledge and experience that most people won’t ever bother thinking about. The experience goes beyond just radio.”

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Sixteen Valley Students Qualify for International DECA Conference

Congratulations to the DECA students, who all competed fiercely at Iowa DECA State Career Development Conference, Feb. 28-29.  Sixteen students qualified to compete at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Nashville in April.

First Place:

  • Keara Anonson — Apparels and Accessories Marketing & Fashion Merchandising Promotion Plan
  • Gabe Butler-Klein — Human Resources Management
  • Varun Myneni/Linh Tran — Business Law and Ethics Team Decision Making
  • Ethan Ellinger/Whitney Wiese — Marketing Communications Team Decision Making
  • Jared Shapert — Principles of Marketing
  • Jack Ohringer/Abigail Patterson — Advertising Campaign

Second Place

  • Jack Ohringer — Business Services Marketing
  • Emma Judge/Jessica Studer — Fashion Merchandising Promotion Plan

3rd place

  • Jessica Lewis/Stacy Kabenda — Marketing Communications Team Decision Making
  • Jack Thompson/Garrett Wheeler — Sports and Entertainment Team Decision Making
  • Jackson Moritz — Principles of Business Administration

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Valley Boy’s Basketball Team 2016 Class 4A Champions

BoysBBall-StateTournament-slide

UPDATE from March 12: Congratulations to Coach B.J. Windhorst and the Valley Boys’ Basketball team, the 2016 Iowa Class 4A Champions! The team bested Iowa City West 46-39 to take the title. Join the team for a celebration in the Valley Field House tonight!

Further congratulations go out to senior Turner Scott and junior Quinton Curry, who were both named to the 4A All-Tournament team.

UPDATE from March 11: Valley will play for the Class 4A State Title at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday, at Wells Fargo Arena. A celebration of the season will be held in the Valley Field House following the game. Tickets will be sold through Wells Fargo Arena only.

Ticket Information

UPDATE from March 9: The Valley boys’ basketball team moves on to the semifinal round of the state tournament with a 61-56 win over the Dowling Maroons. The next game will be at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 11. Tickets will be on sale in the Valley Activities Office from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 10.

From March 4: Congratulations to the Valley boys’ basketball team on their win Tuesday night over Ankeny Centennial. This win sends the team to the State Tournament next week at Wells Fargo Arena.

The game will be at 1:05 p.m., Wednesday, March 9. If students want to attend the game, they can sign up March 3, March 4, or March 7. An email will then be sent home to parents and guardians, letting them know the student will be excused from school. If this is not what the parent/guardian wants, please call 515-633-4000 and let Valley know you do NOT want your student excused. No response is needed if you support your student attending the game.

Boys’ basketball State Tournament T-shirts can be ordered before 1 p.m., March 4. There will be a table set up in the commons area. Shirts can be picked up next Tuesday afternoon and evening, and Wednesday morning. The shirts are orange and cost $10 for a youth medium and adult S-XL and $12 for adult XXL.

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