Passing the Torch: Forming YTVB’s New Anchor Team

Published April 24, 2017

Katelyn and Izzy had been sick with anticipation for weeks before the STN convention. Along with their two teammates Jacob and Payton, they have been impatiently waiting for the results of the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange’s 30-second video competition to be announced. As students from Geneva High School’s GTV student television studio and sport network team in Illinois, they had produced and submitted a video entry in hopes of becoming the anchors of the second season of the US-Russia Youth TV Bridge (YTVB) and winning a trip to the Volga Encounters youth media festival in Russia.

Fellow GTV team member Payton said that the weeks before GTV heard from SEE were very stressful.

 “Katelyn could probably tell you first hand, considering [she] would accidentally replace words with ‘Russia’ on our daily news show,” reported Payton. Katelyn added, “the anticipation for getting chosen was so real …  we were so nervous [that] we would pretend to [pocket-dial] SEE just to see if anyone answered.”  

For the four GTV students, the tense anticipation of the waiting game eventually gave way to relief and joy. In late March, they were standing on the stage at the STN convention Excellence Awards in front of a crowd of 3,000 other students. To great applause, they were being introduced as the winners of the 30 second video competition and as the incoming anchors of the second season of the US-Russia Youth TV Bridge by Lee Giat and Nikita Kulikov, current members of the YTVB’s anchor team.

A Geneva High School student displays school spirit at the STN 2017 Opening Ceremony.

When the four GHS students received the momentous email from SEE confirming their victory, they rushed over to GTV Advisor Jason Santo’s office. Jason recalls, “They all ran in, super excited. The parents were [elated]; my wife was jumping up and down in her office and called me from important meetings … Our community is overjoyed. [It was announced] over the loud speakers, the [school] district is sending out press-releases … so yeah, very [pleased].” 

It had been a long path to victory for the GTV students. The year prior, they had submitted a 30-second-long video during the first YTVB competition, announced at the 2016 STN convention.

“[During] my freshman year I sat in on the press conference between the Social Expertise Exchange staff and the US half of the bridge, and I thought it was really, really interesting” recalls Katelyn. “It was cool to see all the ideas that the Russians bring to the table, and [what] we here in America bring to the table.”

Last year’s competition was stiff, and the US-side prize ultimately went to the Cypress Bay High School team in Florida that that has been pioneering the US-Russia Youth TV Bridge alongside Russia’s team from Yaroslavl. Undeterred, the GTV students rallied for a second shot at the opportunity, and prevailed. They will be heading to the Volga Encounters Youth Media festival at the end of April to meet their Russian counterparts on the second season’s anchor team.   

Now comes even greater anticipation, as the GTV team mentally prepares for the journey to Russia. For Jacob, this will be the first time leaving the country:

“I thought that Russia would be a really unique and interesting country to visit for the first time, so when I heard about the opportunity I was very interested … there’s something special about learning from other countries and their styles of storytelling.”

The GTV team echoed the desire to learn from the approaches of their future peers. Payton expressed that “everyone has a different way of going about telling a story … just from being around [STN,] you can kind of see how everyone’s choosing to go about their work … I think it’s going to be interesting how a whole different country goes about that, and to see how their creative process and work ethic are formed.”

Katelyn mirrors the sentiment. “Here at STN, you see the storytelling differences between [us] in Illinois, and here in California, and they’re very different styles of stories. Imagine how different we are from [all the way across the world]!”

Clearly, these students don’t take the immensity of their upcoming journey lightly. As Payton puts it, “we are not very multicultural, we’re very sheltered – so going to Russia is just going to [break all of that down]” One can sense that along with their exuberance, the students are humbled, and they are eager to learn. In Katelyn’s words, “it takes your small world and makes it so much bigger.”

The current YTVB anchor team welcomes the incoming anchors from GTV onstage during the STN Convention in Anaheim.

When asked about the inevitable language barrier, Izzy sums up the team’s enthusiastic attitude: “[because] we don’t speak Russian we’re going to be paying more attention to the way the story is told through … things that aren’t just dialogue – how to tell a story visually. [it’s] going to be interesting … to be able to see and observe more because we don’t speak the language.”

Basing his response on his experiences interacting with European journalists, GTV Advisor Jason Santo expands on Izzy’s comment: “In one of my intro classes I teach ‘the language of film.’  I show [the students] foreign commercials and ask them what’s going on. They see what’s happening, they see that this world of video has no barriers … we can totally comprehend what’s going on … it can be completely silent [but] we can understand it clearly.”

With GTV’s eagerness to overcome the language barrier, their trip to Russia and the Volga Encounters Youth Media Festival is bound to be a productive learning experience. Joining the anchor team marks the beginning of a new phase for the US-Russia Youth TV Bridge, and the beginning of a new season of production.

The US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange will be at the Volga Encounters Youth Media Festival in Cheboksary, Russia from April 28 through May 2, accompanying the GTV YTVB members and the soon-to-be-announced Russia members of the second YTVB anchor team. Stay tuned!