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School stations making a difference

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“Are you ready? Indianapolis! The time has come! The bell has rung!”

Many listeners look forward to hearing Emerson Allen shout this intro every Friday morning when he is hosting School Talk, a show on WBDG-FM.

School Talk has become one of the most popular shows on WBDG, thanks to its fun and candid discussions that tackle a variety of issues, ranging from politics and entertainment, to suicide, drugs and the impact of clothing choices such as wearing sagging pants.

“What we want to do is give students and everyone in our community a voice, because we all have something to say,” Allen said. “We bring the issues of the community to students so that they can learn from the community and get prepared for the real world.”

Also known as Giant 90.9, WBDG is a radio station located at Ben Davis High School and owned by the Wayne Township School District.

WBDG is operated by Ben Davis students who fill most of the disc jockey slots. The students must complete a mass media course before signing up to be on the radio, and are overseen by adult faculty facilitators who prepare them for broadcasting.

Allen serves as one of those facilitators, in addition to his role as host of School Talk and community outreach coordinator for WBDG.

“It’s really been great working with the students. I have really enjoyed getting to know them and helping them obtain what they need to succeed,” said Allen, who volunteered at the school and served as director of faith-based initiatives under former Mayor Bart Peterson before he was hired by the school district.

In the Indianapolis market, Allen is one of only a handful of African-Americans who hosts a radio format outside of a predominantly Black radio station.

His presence fits WBDG well because the station’s workforce and programs reflect the diversity of Ben Davis’ student population, which has witnessed an increase in African-American, Latino and Asian students over the last decade.

“At Ben Davis we have a diversity of programs and diversity in our programs,” said Jonathan Easter, general manger of WBDG.

Easter believes Allen has done an excellent job of not only increasing awareness about the station, but also motivating students.

“With our station the students determine the programming, and it’s great watching them come up with ideas and showcasing their creativity,” said Easter.

Several of WBDG’s programs are produced by African-American students, including The Jazz Class on Friday morning, and the R&B/hip-hop oriented shows Bassline on Tuesdays, The Vibe and Naptown’s Finest on Thursdays and Freestyle Friday.

In addition to WBDG, Ben Davis has BDTV, which is managed by the school’s communications department chairman, Dennis Goins who is also African-American. Currently, BDTV airs every Friday at Ben Davis on channel 66, has programs on WFYI-Channel 20, and will soon be broadcasting via Comcast’s new On Demand service.

Together, WBDG and BDTV entertain and enlighten audiences, but also help students develop the skills needed to land that dream job in the broadcasting field, whether it is on the air, in front of the camera or behind the scenes.

Additionally, students have earned numerous awards for WBDG and BDTV.

By the end of the their senior year, many students who work with WBDG and BDTV use their experience to earn college credit and scholarships to various colleges. One of the most popular awards sought is the Excel broadcasting/communications scholarship, which is geared towards minority students and offered by Vincennes University.

Allen, Easter and Goins enjoy trading jokes with the students and teasing each other about who is “aging” the best. However, they take their roles as educators and mentors very seriously.

“Some of these students are facing a lot of challenges and problems at home, and this might be the only positive outlet they have,” said BDTV’s Goins. “We have fun making quality programs, but it’s also a blessing seeing these kids smile and gaining the confidence needed to get out in the community and make a difference.”

For more information about WBDG and its programming, call (317) 227-4122 or visit www.wayne.k12.in.us/bdwbdg. For more information about BDTV and its programming call (317) 227-4593 or visit www.wayne.k12.in.us/bdtv.

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