Senior citizens give students a lesson in producing a television show
Working behind the camera and within the control room, eighth-grade students from Oak Grove Elementary School learned behind the scenes what it takes to produce a TV show.
But instead of learning about what happens in a television studio in Hollywood or in a Chicago television station, the lesson was taught by a group of senior citizens.
"They will be surprised to see how old we are. That's what they will be surprised to see," said Vita Verden, the almost 80-year-old host of "Senior Issues Etc."
"Senior Issues Etc." member Joe Passalaqua, who has talked about and brought equipment to students at the Green Oaks school, invited the class to a taping of the cable show.
John Mehnert, a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade tech teacher, saw it as an opportunity for a real world connection.
The timing also was perfect, Mehnert added, as the school seeks a Oak Grove Foundation grant to upgrade equipment and for the first time begin a news broadcast within the school.
But the visit not only gave students a lesson on TV production, it shared with this younger generation what the older generations can teach.
"People underestimate the power of someone who is older. They are smarter than we think they are. They have so much experience," said eighth-grader Matthew Elitz of Green Oaks. "Whether a 5-year-old or 85-year-old. It doesn't matter. You can do whatever you want no matter your age."
"Senior Issues Etc." was started by a group of Libertyville senior citizens who are responsible for each area of production from developing ideas and getting guests to preparing the set, operating cameras and running video and audio.
Verden said when "Senior Issues Etc." started in 2000, there were critics who claimed the seniors would not have anything to talk about. She had only planned to do two shows.
But through guidance, "Senior Issues Etc." has become a nonprofit charitable production. And, through topics ranging from genealogy to medical care, the show gives seniors a chance to connect with community.
"It's grown beyond what we've imagined," Verden said.
Among the 12 seniors, the oldest who is 88 years old, none came into "Senior Issues Etc." with prior TV experience. Comcast studios in Waukegan, where they tape, provides a regulated course and certification to use the equipment.
Verden said what's also important is everyone chooses how they want to contribute.
"I want them to have that freedom," she said. "It's a learning experience and giving back to the community one show at a time."
The crew tapes shows twice a month. New shows air on Comcast Channel 17 at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Channel 6 at 4 p.m. Mondays and 6 p.m. Fridays.
The show thrives not only because it provides information to seniors, but it also shows seniors can stay active and productive.
Verden said the staff also understands with age and wisdom, there is a chance to share this with a younger generation.
"There is a generation that wants this. They want to hear what we've learned," she said.
With help from the "Senior Issues Etc." crew, the students got experience in front and behind the camera, rehearsing and then walking live onto the set to introduce themselves. Some worked with the floor director or wore headsets to listen to cues from the control room as they controlled the cameras.
"I learned how the different cameras work and what happens in the background to make it all happen," said student Kathleen Madigan, who worked the camera with Passalaqua. "It was really cool. Now, I can pursue how I can do more with it."
Elitz of Green Oaks said the visit was an opportunity to get real life experience.
"We are not watching a video of someone else doing it," he said. "Here, we can ask questions. We can interact."