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FMS students tape for annual C-Span contest

Karen Rehder’s eighth-grade language arts class at Farragut Middle School makes for an interesting triangular relationship with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander [R-Tenn.] and Brian Lamb, founder of C-Span public affairs cable network.

For the second straight year, Rehder’s students are taking part in C-Span’s annual “Student Cam Contest,” a 10-minute film documentary on various social and political issues compiled on middle school and high school levels.

Following the success of one three-student team at FMS, recognized as one the top 15 entries nationwide last year, Rehder and one of her 12 three-student teams did a taped interview with Alexander at Farragut Town Hall Wednesday, Oct. 10. The subject was Iraq.

“The kids do all of it, I just oversee them,” Rehder said. “I can help coach them, but it’s ultimately them, they do it all. They set up the interviews, do the interviews themselves and they edit the film and put it all together into their little 10-minute package.”

With FMS “teammates” Tyler Stridde and Robert Wrinkle as cameramen, Bradley Carr conducted the Alexander interview.

Among his questions on the Iraqi War: “What would you say to the servicemen and women who miss births and birthdays who see no end to their service?”

First answering he’d thank the troops, Alexander added, “as far as their individual service, that we want to move quickly to a policy of where you have, ‘one month deployed, you’ll have one month at home.’”

Bradley then asked, “When should the troops come home?” Alexander answered, “As soon as we can honorably bring them home. We should have a clear plan and a clear message that says our mission is shifted from combat, which it has been, to support. That we have a limited long-term mission, and we’re stepping up diplomatic efforts. … No way to put a deadline on it because it has to happen as security conditions on the ground permit.”

Rehder said the Alexander interview would be “one little snippet” of the final 10-minute video on the Iraqi issue.

Bradley said, “I was nervous at first, but it was really an honor just to talk to someone that important. I’m just 13, and I get to meet him already. That was pretty cool.”

As for Bradley’s preconceived notions, “I thought he was going to be more of a political person, but he’s really a nice guy,” the 13-year-old said of Alexander. “It was nice to meet him.”

Alexander told Rehder and the students, “When I was young I went to work for the Nixon campaign, ‘Citizens for Nixon,’ and one of the young men I hired to work with me was Brian Lamb, who was later the founder of C-Span. … He had the idea himself.

“He was out of work, didn’t have a job. I took him off the streets. I was barely off the streets myself.”

Rehder said she met Lamb “this summer during an educator’s conference.”

All Rehder students are required to create a video, but of the 10 teams to do so last year, “only three entered the contest,” the teacher said. “But this year I’m making everybody enter the contest.”

A year ago, the Rehder-coached threesome of Kristen Campbell, Samantha White and Kelly Zitka finished among the top 15 nationally with the topic, “Affirmative Action and College Application Process.” Rehder said the threesome’s interviews included University of Tennessee and Maryville College officials, students and State Sen. Tim Burchett [R-District 7].

“That’s heavy duty stuff for 13-year-olds,” Rehder said. “They showed it on [C-Span’s] Washington Journal.’”

The satisfaction? “Watching a group of three little girls blossom into three young women,” Rehder said, “Because by the end of the project they had a poise and maturity about them that they didn’t have when they started.”

The girls also became news. “They were on radio, they were on T-V, they were in the newspaper,” Rehder said. “They got to see the other side of it.”

As for student enthusiasm, Rehder said, “I think at first they get, ‘ah, we have to do a documentary, that’s not fun.’ But once they start getting the interviews and through the interviewing, then it becomes fun. It’s ‘hey, I’ve got so-and-so’ and ‘I’ve got this interview here.’

“They’re going all over the place and meeting all kinds of people, and they’re fearless,” Rehder added. “It’s wonderful.”

Rehder said the deadline to have the videos “in C-Span’s office” is Dec. 31.

Responding to nationwide fliers sent out by C-Span, “We thought, ‘this might be interesting to do,’” Rehder said of the original inspiration. “You have to have multiple viewpoints and you need to incorporate C-Span programming.”


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