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Hightower Digital Media Academy

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Fort Bend ISD program offers hands-on mass media opportunities to students

Written by Lorrie Crow Kimble | Photography by Chelsea Janacek

Sugar Land, TX News – Assisting a professional wedding photographer. Creating a video game. Designing business logos. Running a TV news broadcast and even planning a career as sportscaster for ESPN. These are a few of Hightower High School’s Digital Media Academy (DMA) students’ hopes for the future.

Open to all high school students in Fort Bend ISD, DMA is a two-program track academy that offers students the ability to work in both digital filmmaking and broadcasting, and digital graphics and 3D animation. Students meet every other day on a block schedule and earn college credit. Six students took time to share their academic experiences and future goals in digital media.

Hightower Digital Media Academy students Kennedy Miller, Kelsea Tanaka, Enoma Osakue, Robyn Marie Pereira, and Danielle Castillo

Hightower Digital Media Academy students Kennedy Miller, Kelsea Tanaka, Enoma
Osakue, Robyn Marie Pereira, and Danielle Castillo

Danielle Castillo – Broadcast Journalist
A 16-year-old high school junior, Danielle Castillo entered the DMA “with the belief that photography was going to be my yellow brick road,” but found to her surprise that journalism was her true path.

Castillo works with Hightower TV news, a student-run news broadcast. “We perform and broadcast information across the school like a real news station,” she adds. Castillo writes news packages on world news and politics, helps lead the broadcast studio to conduct a smooth show, and aids the development of each broadcast. “Recently, we aired one of our first live shows. It broadcast not only to Hightower, but to all of Fort Bend ISD,” says Castillo.

She also worked on a news story about Guantanamo Bay. “With this story, I brought knowledge to not only my school, but also my district in a form of entertainment,” she says.

Danielle Castillo - Broadcast Journalist

Danielle Castillo – Broadcast Journalist

Kennedy Miller – Sports Journalist
Now a 16-year-old junior, Kennedy Miller joined the DMA in middle school as he thought it would expand his opportunities for future jobs. “I focus on film and over the last three years, I have learned how to shoot proper photos, edit, add slides in movie clips, and place music behind movie clips,” he says.

A typical class for him is practicing for the school newscast at the end of each week. “This – by far – has been my favorite media because the entire school can view what we have been working on week after week,” he adds.

Miller says that attending the DMA is not difficult if you have a true passion for learning the skills. “My favorite part this year has been going to different middle schools to recruit students to sign up for the academy.” With the abilities he has acquired, Miller says he plans to be a sports broadcaster on ESPN.

Kennedy Miller - Sports Journalist

Kennedy Miller – Sports Journalist

Robyn Marie Pereira -Photographer / Graphic Designer
After Robyn Marie Pereira’s older brother told her how much fun he had in DMA, she signed up. The 17-year-old senior’s emphasis is on photography and digital graphics. “I have been taught how to create professional-grade photos and process them in Adobe Photoshop, as well as create graphic art and media advertising,” says Pereira.

This year she is continuing with her own photo shoots, as well as assisting professional wedding photographer Alison Carlino through a DMA-based internship. She also plans to learn Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to help further her photo editing techniques.

With some DSLR photography and Photoshop training under her belt, she’s built an impressive portfolio of her work – a key factor in helping with her future college admission. “Learning such skills in high school also puts my classmates and me ahead of the game by already having knowledge and experience that college students are just beginning to acquire,” she adds.

Robyn Marie Pereira -Photographer / Graphic Designer

Robyn Marie Pereira -Photographer/Graphic Designer

Chris Dang – Graphic Designer
Anything technological was an interest to 17-year-old senior Chris Dang. “I was infinitely fascinated by the way computers work. So naturally, I was attracted to the Hightower DMA program because it could be my one-way ticket to my dream job,” he says.

Creating logos and editing photos are all in his scope of ability. The hardest part, he says, is jump-starting creative ideas. “Having a root idea for a project is ideal because if I can retain this idea as the project progresses, then eventually the concept becomes a beautiful reality,” he says. “Although it takes more than four hours to complete a simple project, I believe the ending product always positively influences the work you put in.” Dang is currently designing a logo for his amateur business.

Dang says he recommends the DMA program. “Thanks to the Digital Media Academy, my path in graphics design and video editing is certain,” says Dang. “Pursuing four years of my hobby has solidified my decision that creating and editing original work is my future.”

Chris Dang - Graphic Designer

Chris Dang – Graphic Designer

Kelsea Tanaka – Game Designer

Kelsea Tanaka is also a 17-year-old senior who plans to have a career in graphic design or animation while attending classes at the University of North Texas. “I will admit, I am a gaming nerd,” she says. “From my passion for playing video games, I wanted to be able to create a game of my own. In the academy, I was able to create an actual flash game out of the program Adobe Flash Professional.”

Tanaka loves that the academy enables students to have hands-on experiences instead of just out-of-the-book instruction. “Our teachers have had jobs in the media field prior to their teaching job,” she shares. The academy also requires students to keep up their grades, so Tanaka says that is a good motivation to do well in core subjects.

Tanaka says jobs in the media field have increased. DMA “allows students in their teen years to learn the programs that professionals use, and really allows us to have a high opportunity to eventually have a job in the media field.”

Kelsea Tanaka - Game Designer

Kelsea Tanaka – Game Designer

Enoma Osakue – Web Designer
Enoma Osakue says she chose the DMA because she was impressed by the work that its students could produce. “My older sister was in the academy, so I had the opportunity of experiencing parts of the program early on – seeing firsthand the variety of work that included graphic design and photography,” she says.

Osakue has learned how to create games in Flash, improve content on websites, and edit videos, and has experimented with search engine optimization – all while adding her portfolio to her personal website. “The Digital Academy has really expanded my horizons,” says Osakue. “Everything is art in its own way, and I love taking that concept and inserting it into different areas of my life.” She plans to major in marketing and minor in computer science.

DMA is sure to prepare any student who is interested in digital media for their future. “Digital media is everywhere and in everything,” says Osake. “I’m glad I got into it now.” SLM

Enoma Osakue - Web Designer

Enoma Osakue – Web Designer


LORRIE CROW KIMBLE is a former high school journalism teacher. She is amazed at the current digital technology now offered to students.


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