BRATTLEBORO — Emma Davis knew her name was on the list for Senior Awards Night at Brattleboro Union High School but not why. Both she and her parents, Robin and Andy Davis, were surprised and delighted when Emma received the Marty Jezer Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Write Action sponsors the award in memory of Marty Jezer, one of the co-founders of the community-based, non-profit, grass-roots writers' organization formed, according to its website, in 1999, "to strengthen a community of writers in Brattleboro and the surrounding area; and to nurture, encourage, and promote the literary arts in the at-large community."
Arlene Distler, secretary and treasurer of Write Action, said the award was established in 2005 after Jezer's death.
"Marty wrote books," she said, "and he had a column in the Brattleboro Reformer for the last 10 years of his life. As someone who struggled with a severe stutter, he was also an advocate for accepting and loving yourself as you are. Marty would be so pleased at Emma's winning this award."
The "BUHS-TV News: The Morning Advisory Report," broadcast within the school and over Brattleboro Community Television, caught Emma's attention because "I saw other people on camera, and I got interested," she said.
In her sophomore year, she signed up for the semester-long class.
"I like the jobs that I did," she said. "I like being on camera. I was News Anchor One and News Anchor Two. Anchor One talks about the morning announcements. I had to make a script for weather and for sports."
Emma said she liked the projects the students had to do, for example, watching a video of gymnastics on YouTube and having to tell about all the camera shots and angles. She also set up the camera and filmed a winter induction of new members into the BUHS Mary Dana Henshaw Chapter of the National Honor Society, which was later shown on BUHS-TV. Another job she had was working the teleprompter for the anchors on a particular day.
At the end of the course, "we had to do a presentation," Emma said. "I did a final portfolio presentation. I put a couple of videos in it. I used WebLink."
Emma is also a many-medaled champion swimmer in the Special Olympics, and BUHS-TV broadcast a video of her swimming her specialty, the butterfly stroke, in a meet.
Tobias Moore, BUHS English teacher and co-teacher of Television Production, nominated Emma for the award.
"Emma has such a wonderful heart," he said. "She always got excited and brought the whole mood of the class up. I know from my own experience as a journalist that stories don't just fall into your lap. You have to find them, get the quotes, and write them. Emma was someone who would totally and tenaciously chase after an assignment.
"There were some really motivated kids in the class," he continued, "but Emma was a cut above the rest. She would volunteer to go out and film just for fun, even when she had completed her assignments. She worked really hard and accepted full responsibility. She was adamant about not letting anyone assist her. She was always there, ready to go. She did every job in the studio and genuinely loved everything about it. She had the attitude to do it, and that's what it takes."
Emma enjoyed the course so much, she signed on for a second semester as a junior, not only because of the content, but also because "I liked the teacher, and I liked my classmates," she said.
Thinking about the path that led to Emma's success in the television production course, her mother, Robin, said there have been many stepping stones along the way.
"At Oak Grove School," she said, "Emma had experience with Claymation and movie-making, so she felt comfortable in a technological environment. Then her experiences in the Theatre Adventure Program at New England Youth Theatre were important for her comfort on camera. She took the photography class at BUHS with David Mazor. It's been a team effort and interesting to see her progress.
"All along Emma has taken a lot of regular education classes," Robin continued. "I was very reluctant at first about the television production class, but in the end, I felt it was her best class. The kids were really creative and a very diverse group. She fit right in. It gave her the visibility she might otherwise not have had."
Emma's father, Andy, echoed Robin's initial hesitation about the TV course.
"I went to the parent-teacher evening expecting to talk about issues of supervision," Andy said, "and instead, Mr. Moore said everything was great, and she was right on track."
"I remember when I was in school," Robin said, "there was a student who had Down Syndrome, and his classroom was in the basement. We never saw him. BUHS has afforded Emma tons of opportunities. She's had a lot of really great experiences. In art, theater, circus arts, TV production, diversity — Emma's also had a lot to offer. It's so different now. Emma has the opportunity to be part of the school community and of the community at-large."
"When I would go to BUHS to pick her up after school," Andy said, "every 50 feet through the halls, you'd hear, 'Hi, Emma.' It happens throughout Brattleboro. Everywhere we go, whether it's a little league game, or downtown. Emma feels right at home pretty much everywhere."
Nancy A. Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.