In a 10-by-10 office beside the Culinary Arts Dining Room in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, students are simultaneously learning business and broadcasting, meanwhile bringing reggae station 105.5, WYOB-FM, to Island listeners.
As business teacher Brian Jakusik explained, “They’re doing all of their work in real time, and running the station like a business; that’s why it’s so exciting.”
This program is a part of the regional high school’s Career Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, and is run by Brian Jakusik and MVY radio promotions director and on-air host William Narkiewicz, with occasional guest lectures from the station’s founder, Skip Finley.
Mr. Finley is a veteran of the radio industry, having spent the past 46 years in media, primarily broadcasting. Among other remarkable positions, Mr. Finley has been chairman for the Radio Advertising Bureau and a vice-chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters. His success at 40-plus stations over the years has rendered him aptly unsuccessful at retiring, though he has made several attempts to do so. When he moved to the Vineyard year-round, Mr. Finley saw an opportunity to share his wealth of knowledge and experience with students at MVRHS through the creation of a new station. In 2014, Mr. Finley and the newly founded WYOB board received a grant from the Federal Communications Commission, and the station went on the air in October 2015. While the radio club is in its second year, this is the first year of the CTE course.
The course challenges students to look at radio as not only a career path, but also as a business model, which includes the consideration of the audience and the goals of the station. With these concepts in mind, students are gaining what Mr. Jakusik describes as “a complete business background that happens to be radio-centric.” He went on to say that the overall goal of the school’s business department is to instill employable life skills, and that this program will give students “the ability to apply these learned skills right out of high school, if they choose to.”
Students said that they were especially excited about a segment of the class during which they all made Island-themed 90-second public service announcements. These PSAs were a mixture of history and advertising. Freshman Gregory Clark made one about Grey’s Raid on Martha’s Vineyard, during the Revolutionary War. Gregory said that the PSA project was hard but worth it; his favorite part of the class is editing voiceovers, because he’s good with computers.
This program helps students find their particular interests under the umbrella of radio and business, and while challenging them to learn a broad range of skills, also allows students to find a niche and specialize. Radio Club president and rising senior Malick Burke has done just this, and is responsible for programing and choosing much of the music that you hear on the station.
While most of the music played is traditional reggae, Mr. Finley noted that there is a more creative portion of Malick’s job, which speaks to his passion for the industry: finding covers and new songs by up-and-coming artists, and weaving these songs into the playlist. One of the songs that Malick found on YouTube was a reggae version of Adele’s song “Hello” by a 13-year-old in the Seychelles. After Malick played the song on the station, Mr. Finley said, it really took off, and even made it onto iTunes.
Mr. Finley said he’s very happy with the support that the station has received from local businesses and the faculty at the high school. He said, “The teachers have been great. They listen to the station, wave, and stop in often.”
Of the many things to look out for from this blossoming station, Martha’s Vignettes seems especially innovative. This series will consist of 90-second stories about historic members of the Vineyard community. It was inspired by WYOB’s recent Black History Month project, which highlighted historic black members of the Island community. These projects serve to inform listeners and teach the students how to write concise and compelling short stories that pack in a lot of information.
For more information, visit wyob.org.