WKU-PBS staff locked themselves in with residents of the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center in late July, taught them how to work cameras and audio for television programs and in early August taped two programs for broadcast.

The separate Kentucky Outlook interview segments by Barbara Deeb were with U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, and Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley, while all were locked inside the facility in Bowling Green. The segments began airing Sunday morning on WKU-PBS, with the first of four broadcasts of the Deeb interview with Guthrie. The Tilley interview will first air 7:30 p.m. Saturday on WKU-PBS. 

The pilot project is now being looked at by television stations in Orlando and Denver, said David Brinkley, director of Educational Telecommunications at WKU, in a telephone interview from Chicago on Saturday. Brinkley said the idea is an attempt to look at unique training opportunities for STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – skills. Brinkley envisions WKU-PBS taking its portable television studio to other juvenile justice centers throughout the state.

"This was a team-building, workforce-career-building opportunity for the residents," Brinkley said. WKU-PBS, which has obtained portability capabilities in recent years, was able to install an entire television studio in one of the residential pods at the juvenile justice center. The equipment was secured in between training and taping sessions.

The residents' director said the kids did an exemplary job.

"I did not notice a difference between these residents and the freshmen who come in (to learn broadcast technology)," said Joshua Niedwick, WKU PBS director, on Monday. He trained the nine male residents from July 25-29 on how to work a television camera, record sound and operate the switcher, a device that moves the broadcast from camera to camera. There was additional instruction Aug. 1 and 2, Niedwick said. The shows were taped Aug. 3. The broadcast studio was then dismantled Aug. 4, the director said.

"The kids hit a home run," Niedwick said. "Television broadcasting can be a fairly alien experience."

Every position of the broadcast crew was an incarcerated juvenile except the director, Brinkley said.

"It is tough to talk to the kids. You see children that could be their own," Brinkley said of the experience. He said the experience was an opportunity "to plant a seed" with the residents when they explore career options in the future.

Niedwick said the broadcast training gives the young men hope that once they deal with the issues that caused their incarceration in the first place, there could be a career path for them outside the detention center's walls.

"I thought it was an amazing idea," Niedwick said.

Brinkley and Niedwick had both previously worked with the WRJDC in putting together a television program spotlighting the environment that the residents face during incarceration. Brinkley said he saw the opportunity to bring a training option to the nine young men, who ranged in age from 14 to 17. Brinkley said he could see other professions bringing training opportunities to incarcerated residents at the WRJDC.

"If we turn one of those kids around, it is worth it," Brinkley said.

Each resident received about 30 hours of instruction. The WKU PBS staff worked with WRJDC staff educators to provide the training.

Brinkley said he was nervous prior to the training and taping inside the detention center, thinking in his head all the things that could have gone wrong. But that didn't happen. "We have already talked to them (the detention center) about returning next summer," Brinkley said.

Rebecca Painter, an educator at WRJDC for 16 years, said in a university release that the students are eagerly awaiting the programs' broadcasts.

“As part of Bowling Green Independent Schools teaching staff, I reinforce the WRJDC philosophy with the addition of BGISD Goals and Expectations," Painter said in the release. "I teach 21st Century Skills and help my students develop global awareness, innovation, critical thinking skills, communication skills, collaboration skills and technology skills. The project with WKYU/PBS filled each of these categories. The interview with Secretary Tilley and U.S. Congressman Guthrie exposed them to national and global awareness. The work with the PBS staff exposed them to all of the other skills. This was a true hands-on, real-life exercise that allowed them to participate in some phenomenal vocational skills," she said in the release.

— The broadcast dates for the interviews on WKU PBS are Guthrie: 7:30 p.m., Sept. 10; 8:30 a.m., Sept. 11; and 8:30 p.m., Sept. 12; and, Tilley: 8:30 a.m., Sunday; and 8:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 5.

— Follow business reporter Charles A. Mason on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

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Charles Allen Mason is the business reporter for the Daily News. He is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a 1977 graduate of West Virginia University in Morgantown. In his spare time he enjoys reading, music, sports and cooking.

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