Media program grows with support from the community, strangers

Jan 20, 2020

When Dartmouth High School media instructor Robert Perrotti took over the video production program three years ago, students were working with hand-me-down equipment and studio sets made from scattered furniture.

Now, the media lab located in the basement of the high school is filled with the latest in video production technology, bright, colorful, and comfortable sets, and lighting and equipment to match a professional television studio.

It’s all thanks to the generosity of both the community, and complete strangers.

Work had begun to renovate the high school’s media lab — which resembled more of a large classroom than a television studio — in the summer of 2016. A new control room was built, to provide students with a realistic editing and production experience in an environment resembling a real studio.

When Perrotti took over the program in September, he made it a goal to “bring the program to the next level.”

Through community partnerships, an after-school program, and a more student-led curriculum allowing students to lead the production of their own shows, enrollment numbers soared.

Perrotti and his students launched DHSTVMedia, a YouTube channel to host student-produced content, and airs student programming on DCTV. But along with increased attendance, came the demand for more advanced technology.

That’s where the community stepped in.

Over the past few years, Perrotti has secured extra funding through grants to bring new equipment into the studio.

Recently, Bob’s Discount Furniture kicked in $1,000 to add brand new seating and coffee tables to the talk show sets, too, and grant funding from the Dartmouth High Parent Teacher Organization helped fund a studio lighting project.

But the most surprising source of donations is not from Dartmouth, but rather from kind strangers across the country through a platform called DonorsChoose.

It is a crowdfunding platform designed for schools, which allows teachers to request funding for classroom resources and projects. Supporters from around the country can search for and pledge funding for specific projects.

“I can’t even put a dollar value on it, it’s just so much,” Perrotti noted.

In just the past few weeks, the media lab has added a new lighting system to the in-studio sets, backdrops, a portable green screen, and large television screens to help support the production process.

“The kids write a special thanks to all the people who donated,” Perrotti said, explaining that donors will receive an update so they can see how their contributions are making an impact in his classroom.

Perrotti said he’s found people from across the country donating, and many share their own personal reasons for supporting programs in towns they’ve likely never been to before.

A person from the midwest submitted the last remaining funds for a recent project, and left a note that he was an A/V student when he himself was in high school, and wished to support future generations.

Students are already seeing the effects of the new equipment, even as they volunteer to help install the lighting and new televisions.

Adam Khan hosts an afternoon talk show, and can hear the positive impact one new piece of technology is having: An audio mixer.

“The sound quality is great now,” Khan said. “We have a new audio mixer so our voices sound more clear and professional.”

Hollie Raposo helped install the new coffee tables and furniture.

“I think they’re going to look really nice especially when we do our shows with guests,” Raposo said.

With equipment still coming in, Perrotti already has a new project up on the site: A portable film kit to help students produce shows outside of the school building.

Every funding request on DonorsChoose Perrotti makes is student-led. He allows students to come up with ideas, and puts them up on the site.

For more information about the project, visit Perrotti's DonorsChoose page at