On The Air at Sacred Heart Greenwich
By Rob Adams
The Sacred Heart Greenwich broadcast journalism curriculum doesn’t need such cliches. They’re already pros.
Broadcast journalism teacher Ellyn Stewart and two students stopped by the WGCH radio studios last week to chat about the program, the film festival, and their future last week. The seasoned pros didn’t need any preparation for their conversation.
The certainly didn’t need to be told where to sit near the microphone.
Stewart arrived at Sacred Heart Greenwich in 2003, and by that point, the broadcasting program had been in existence for a few years.
“We had a small classroom that we shared with English and Spanish (classes), a couple of computers and a couple of cameras,” she said. “When I joined the school we had seven students in the program. This coming year we are supposed to have closer to 80.
Stewart added that she’s been interested in filmmaking since she was 14 years old. To see the broadcasting program grow has been a thrill for her.
“To watch the growth of our program and see the excitement that our students have about making their movies – telling their stories – and for me, it’s been most rewarding to share their voice through their media,” she said.
Stewarts’ path took her from learning at 14 to interviewing documentary filmmakers such as Ken Burns – the man responsible for covering topics such as the Civil War, baseball, and the history of jazz. From there, she pursued documentary production at PBS and also worked at HBO.
The call to come to Sacred Heart brought her to Greenwich.
“I told my very first class, ‘You’ll be my litmus test.’”
Fourteen years later, she’s still there.
Ellen Pucell, who will head to the University of Wisconsin, and junior Charlotte Sheehan joined Stewart in the WGCH studio to further the discussion.
Pucell is the Executive Producer of “Today From the Heart,” a monthly news show that shares stories about life at Sacred Heart, while Sheehan has anchored the program and will serve as Executive Producer next year.
Pucell has been an active force with the Sacred Heart Greenwich film festival, now celebrating its eighth year.
“It is completely student-run,” she said. “The theme was ‘The Great Gatsby.’”
She said that she produced a small PSA and documentary when she first joined the broadcasting program, where she won first place in her initial film festival effort.
Sheehan gets to stop behind the “Today From the Heart” set as the anchor, and she knows that it’s an important place. The set – formerly used by The Today Show on NBC, was donated by network following the death of David Bloom, a reporter for the network. Bloom died while traveling with the U.S. Third Infantry Division in Iraq in 2003 due to a condition known as a condition known as deep vein thrombosis.
Sacred Heart Greenwich honored Bloom, a Sacred Heart father, by naming their facility The David J. Bloom Broadcast Suite.
“It’s empowered me to communicate how I’m feeling and be representative of a younger generations’ voice,” Sheehan said of joining the program.
Sheehan cited Blooms’ daughter Ava as a source of inspiration.
“I think she was super-articulate and just awesome,” she said.
Stewart added: “I joked with Ava, ‘Do you go to newscasting school at night? How did you get this good?’”
Pucell said that she enjoyed the chemistry of the 2016-17 broadcasting team on “Today From the Heart.”
“It was really cool to edit,” she said.
A visit to The David J. Bloom Broadcast Suite can be overwhelming. Trophies line the shelves with items that were handed out at the Sacred Heart Film Festival, but also at other festivals that the program has taken part in, such as the Greenwich Youth Film Festival.
The festival, which was originated by The Junior League of Greenwich, and is now co-sponsored by the GEC, Greenwich Library, the Avon Theatre Film Center and the Greenwich Arts Council.
“That was a real exciting moment for our program,” Stewart said. “We won 15 of the 20 awards given. It is definitely exciting to be acknowledged in the community as one of the top programs. We have won many award at the All American High School Film Festival.”
Sheehan intends to continue the “broadcasting bug” into next year at Sacred Heart, while Pucell said “absolutely” when asked about if she continues to pursue being a filmmaker.
“Even when I’m not in class, I make videos all summer,” Pucell said. “I’m addicted to YouTube.”
“I am too,” added Sheehan.
The future looks bright, according to Stewart.
“Something that I’m looking forward to next year is developing a course called Real World Filmmaking,” she said. “That course will allow students to team up with actual non-profit organizations and ideally make movies to make a difference.”
Both Sheehan and Pucell discussed working with Pitch Your Peers, a Greenwich-based organization that pools annual dues to to donate a specific philanthropic cause. Sacred Heart Greenwich filmed the process of Pitch Your Peers in an effort to spread awareness. Pucell also spoke of POTS in The Bronx, a food community that offers more than just food.
“It was an incredible experience,” she said.
She called making the video at POTS her favorite experience.
“Going to these places, you have to step out of your comfort zone,” she added.
For Sheehan, the best is yet to come with her senior year beginning in the fall.
“I’m so proud of them,” Pucell said.
As for her students, they both had the same advice: take every opportunity.
It sounds like viewers and listeners can expect a lot more from them for years.
Listen to host Rob Adams with the CSH Broadcasting students.