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Tomcat Radio

HHS “Tomcat Radio” is the only
commercial school station in state.

In 2004 WNWS-AM owner, Wireless Group Inc., made an arrangement for the Haywood County Public School system to use the station as a classroom. The result of this commercial and educational venture – the only commercial radio station in a school in the state of Tennessee. It was the beginning of a new era in communication at the Haywood High Career and Technical Center, thanks to the efforts of HHS Career and Technical Principal Rhonda Thompson and the support of Director of Schools George Chapman. The classes – broadcast journalism and media concepts – are in their third year and going strong. HHS English teacher Sheri Richards and former Brownsville Radio personality Jerry Wilson taught the classes the first year, and now Brownsville Radio’s Rita Hathcock teaches with Richards.

Mrs. Thompson received grants from the Workforce Development Division of the Department of Labor for this new program. These two classes integrate a workplace – a technically real radio station on the air from dawn to dusk each day – academics and technology. The students are learning the business of radio while honing their communication, writing, technology, presentation, marketing and sales skills daily. The music catalogue is R & B and light rock.

“It’s a diverse, fast-paced class that requires students to multi-task while doing their daily and weekly work,” said Hathcock. “I believe these classes are teaching them great skills for college and/or the workplace. In everything you do you need communication skills. Students in our classes must learn to research, write and communicate news and other items on the air everyday. They must also learn to sell themselves as personalities when they participate in the recording process.”

Richards also has many years’ experience in drama, which is a big plus for the students. While both teachers give students direction in all phases of the job of running a radio station, Richards can help students bring their everyday performances “alive” on the air.

“She can help them with their diction, the delivery of their words, and their performance on air which really enhances the quality of the recordings,” Hathcock said.

The classes are now in the process of fine-tuning, so to speak, their on-air shows and music, recording radio shows and developing “theme” hours for certain hours of the day. “Our students are a very talented group of individuals,” Hathcock said. “I am learning something from them every day.”

Both teachers know they are breaking new ground here, with the help of Mrs. Thompson, and they are determined to produce a quality radio station. In addition to the daily and weekly reports at HHS, students are also making announcements about happenings at the other schools in the system and in the community.

“We hope community members will tune in to our radio station when they can during the day,” Hathcock said. “These kids are working hard to make this radio station a good commercial product and one that community members can enjoy.”

Remember, the next voice you may hear on WNWS – Brownsville, 1520AM may be that of a student you know. Tune in – you’ll be amazed at their talent and proud of their work.

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