At noon on Thursday, August 27, Northside High’s student-run radio station KNHS LPFM 93.1 (Lafayette, Louisiana) went live on air, becoming both Lafayette’s only high school-run station and the third live student-run station in the state.
School board members, community leaders and local media celebrated the broadcast launch, but none with as much satisfaction and pride as Jay Redmond, Director of the school’s Broadcast Journalism Academy (BJA), and the academy students who had spent years preparing for the day.
“When we signed on, it was like the birth of a child,” Redmond told reporter Jonathan Arnold of Cajun First; and, considering the station’s newly constructed studio, Redmond added, “One day we knew that broom closet was going to be a studio and these kids just believed in me and now they are on the air.”
Granted a construction permit in February 2014, KNHS began broadcasting online on February 6, 2015. This recent on-air launch means that the 100-watt station can now be heard live throughout Lafayette Parish.
Redmond notes that, by the time of their first February online broadcast, students already had 600 programs produced and ready to go.
Student-produced programming runs for 12 to 18 hours daily, Monday through Friday. Pacifica programming airs on weekends and during school breaks, as does the KSLU program Rock School, produced at Southeastern Louisiana University.
For Redmond and the academy students, this fulfills a vision defined from the start. “This is true student media. We’re a true public radio station,” Redmond told The Advertiser.
“When we signed on, it was like the birth of a child.”
The station claims a motto and central mission of “preserving Louisiana’s unique musical heritage.” Student programming emphasizes local music, focusing on a single genre per show. Current programs include Cajun Sunrise, Boogie Rouge, A Black Tie Event, Delta Blues, Ca c’est bon, and I-10 Waltz.
Theatre of the Mind, a student-developed concept that reimagines the live radio productions of the 1930s, will soon debut. Station Creative Director Tyler Jolivette, the program’s originator and writer, is ready with his first production—a play that examines concepts of the self, time travel and opportunities to correct the past.
Redmond notes that, by the time of their first February online broadcast, students already had 600 programs produced and ready to go. Additional programming plans include development of a daily local news program and simulcast sports.
A station description posted on Public Radio Exchange (PRX) outlines parallel development plans for educational programming and student support, including courses in Cajun French and other languages; in classic literature and current New York Times best-sellers; in environmental, agricultural and meteorological sciences; and in homework help and stress management. Proposals also include offering news and information significant to the local agricultural community.
Student operation of the station fulfills a number of general educational ends. PRX notes, “The Lafayette Parish School System (LPSS) has a vision to increase student literacy, to lower the dropout rate and to increase student involvement and participation in secondary education.” The LPSS initial proposal cites studies showing that high school students enrolled in journalism and/or media studies earn higher grades in math, social sciences, science and English; participate in more extra-curricular and civic activities; and develop improved critical thinking and leadership skills.
Station Manager Camille Harrington, interviewed at the station launch by Amanda Elfresh for The Advertiser, credited her BJA enrollment with teaching her about “time management, being organized, and having a strong work ethic.”
Students not only assume responsibility for the station’s programming—from pre-production to cataloguing—but must also handle scheduling, equipment care, and business issues. Participating students get unique, hands-on experience and are prepared, according to the LPSS, “for entry into one of Louisiana’s ever-growing media industries.”
“You definitely learn the industry,” Jolivette told local television station KATC. “You learn tactics that commercial and radio stations use. Just being able to get that exposure from that business aspect makes me very grateful for this opportunity.”
The curriculum offers dual graduation tracks: one as preparation for university study and a second as preparation for employment.
Currently, the Academy has 50 students enrolled. Plans have been made to open the program to students outside the school’s zone as a school choice option. Another 38 have already applied.
Pacifica congratulates Director Redmond, the students of Northside High and the Lafayette Parish School System for these incredible accomplishments.
This is education for the 21st Century. This is student-run KNHS.