EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Students interested in becoming journalists or videographers will be able to get a career jumpstart through a new program of study being added to the Egg Harbor Township High School course offerings for the 2016-2017 school year.

The Communications Academy will offer a series of courses throughout the four years of high school, grooming students in the skills needed to make educated career and college choices, according to the program’s teachers and mentors.

Principal Terry Charlton said the staff is excited about the school’s third “academy.” The other two are the Medical Science Academy and the Academy of Law and Business.

“Journalism, media studies and television production have always been popular programs at the high school, and the academy is a way or articulating those student interests within a small learning community,” Charlton said.

The courses will include introduction to communications, introduction to media applications, writing for the media, broadcast journalism, screenwriting, video production, Eagle News production and principals of multimedia production. Electives will include Great Books/Great Films, creative writing, philosophy through film, yearbook and journalism/newspaper. The program will conclude with an internship at EHT-TV/Channel 97.

Language arts teachers Dennis Heenan and Denise Steet will instruct the courses along with Leanna Mullen, the EHT-TV/Channel 97 station manager and program mentor. Upperclassmen will be offered the opportunity to mentor underclassmen in the program.

“Communications is the second most popular college major right now,” said Heenan, who teaches Media I and II, which are elective courses that will be phased out when the academy takes over as the primary offering. “If they do enter that major, they know what they want to concentrate in after going through this program. Since we have such great facilities here, we are trying to bring back an air of professionalism.

The school television studio is better than some found in professional news outlets, according to Mullen, who has worked at KYW Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia and NBC40 in Linwood.

“We will continue to add items, but we already have a very advanced television quality studio. Compared to Channel 40, it’s immaculate. We have industry-quality equipment and use Premier editing software, which is what the industry uses. Students will walk away with a very nice portfolio.”

Mullen said even if students do not end up with a communications major in college or taking a job in the media industry, the tools offered as part of the academy will set them apart from peers.

“The digital literacy aspect of this academy is important,” Mullen said. “Even if they don’t pursue communications in the long run, they still possess the technical tools from using the Macs and PCs and doing research using the 21st century tools available to them here.”

Steet said the students can gain dual credits with Stockton University through the Principals of Multimedia course, which will operate like a “flipped classroom.”

“The students will complete the online Stockton coursework at home, and then the time at school will be used for production,” she said.

The faculty hopes to build on the interest that is started in the middle schools, where students can take electives that teach them how to make movie trailers, commercials and other short productions.

During the internship, which will fulfill the practical arts graduation requirement, students will travel around the district to film events and produce news packages that will appear on EHT-TV/Channel 97.

Mullen said the Communications Academy is different than the other two the school offers.

“This academy is also a creative outlet. It’s not just academics driven. It’s a different mindset. It’s really going to appeal to the outliers who may be interested in writing or interested in computers. They don’t have to be the AP type to be successful,” she said.

To be accepted into the academy, students must have two recommendation letters from eighth-grade teachers, pass core content subjects with a B or better, demonstrate proficient standardized test scores and complete a formal application process that includes writing two short essays.

Eighth-grade students will learn more about the program later this month when representatives from the program visit the Alder Avenue and Fernwood Avenue middle schools.

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Staff writer Laura Stetser covers Egg Harbor Township and writes the weekly column The Mom's Beat. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @EHTCurrent, @LauraStetser and @TheMomsBeat.