DEVILS LAKE - Firebird Vision: Take one. Action!

Channel 472 soon could be on a small screen near you.

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Longtime Devils Lake High School publications, yearbook and television production teacher Lara Prozinski says her students are gearing up for their own network of sorts through the North Dakota Telephone Co.

The company recently awarded the school nearly $10,000 in high-definition studio cameras, production monitors, news anchor and boom microphones, headsets and a high-tech mixer/control board.

"They're really excited about this," Prozinski said. "It's like a Steven Spielberg studio fit into a small, high school studio.

"NDTC is providing our students with valuable equipment, and they may not even realize yet just how much it will pay off in the future as far as marketable skills."

Rodney Hoffmeyer, chief operating officer at NDTC, said recently the Devils Lake school is the third such partnership the company has built with schools. The first was Knight Vision in McVille and the second, Panther Vision in Rugby.

A win-win

NDTC is a telephone, television and internet provider that covers 5,500 square miles in the Devils Lake and surrounding area.

"We're very community-orientated," Hoffmeyer said. "We like to give back to the community when we can. It's a win-win for both of us."

The school benefits with state-of-the-art equipment and the promise of future upgrades, while the company is able to enhance its programming.

"If Grandma, Mom and Dad want to see the kids on TV, they can," Hoffmeyer said. "What they see is all up to the schools and what they want to put up there."

Unlike sharing time on other local access channels, this channel is devoted to the school.

Prozinski, who first discovered Panther Vision by accident while surfing channels this summer, says it's a great opportunity for students to gain real-life experience. She approached NDTC and then proposed it to the School Board.

"This class has really taken off and grown. I started with seven students, and now we doubled it," she said. "The students have to fill out an application, and we actually had to limit it to 15 because our studio is small."

Prozinski, who also serves as coordinator for the Devils Lake Public Schools Development Fund, hopes a possible future school expansion will allow even more students to take the hands-on class, which provides everything in the way of news judgment, writing skills, producing, editing, anchoring and scriptwriting.

"They learn how to be leaders, too. If they're the producer that day, they have to be able to work with others and get them to do what they want them to do," she said. "I'm just an observer. The students run the show."

Anything, everything

Though Firebird Vision's debut wasn't planned until late January, sophomore Phillip Maritato already had tackled a big project. He produced a training video with his father addressing how to use social media safely. John Maritato happens to be the head of the Police Academy at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake. The video will be shared with other school counselors in the region, but Phillip already is brainstorming his next project.

"This shows us more what it's like to be in an actual editing room and how we can use these skills in the future," he said. "There's a lot to learn, but we can learn quickly."

Prozinski laughed and said he's right about that.

"When I first started here 25 years ago, I was in a darkroom rolling and developing all my own film," she said. "I almost don't dare touch it (the new equipment), like it's going to blow up or something. But they're not scared at all."

Juniors Jacob Greene and Julian Hoey say they're both eager to jump into special projects, too. And senior Parker Karlstad says he wants to build some experience before he heads to Montana State in Bozeman, where he plans to possibly study film production.

"I always was interested in the storytelling aspect, but once I took this class, I got really interested in how you can use film to tell the story," he said.

Hoffmeyer says each school chooses its own content. Some use it for daily news bits, and others televise live games or highlights, concerts and other events.

No matter what path they take, Prozinski says Firebird Vision will provide students with valuable know-how.

"Writing and communicating are good skills no matter what you do in life," she said.