When Jordan Zimmerman returned to his alma mater three years ago, he was concerned about what he saw. Piper High School, Sunrise, Fla., was lacking in the resources and technology needed to provide students interested in media with the technical skills they'll need in the future.
Rather than join those complaining about the state of today's public schools, Zimmerman, founder and chairman of Omnicom Group's Zimmerman Advertising in Fort Lauderdale, took action. This year, the agency's staff created a state-of -the-art television production facility to help give Piper High School teens the tools they need to succeed in the future.
"There is a strong opinion here that , [with] the money and resources that business brings, [it] has a responsibility to fix what is not working," says Michael Goldberg, exec VP-CMO at Zimmerman. "Most schools need the support of businesses to make it happen. There's just not room in the budget."
Mr. Goldberg credits Mr. Zimmerman for "setting the tone of the agency to make sure we are giving back on all levels."
The new studio setup was designed and executed by Brad Granda, director, and Ryan Salazar, director of engineering at StudioZ, Zimmerman's post-production studio. The new Piper High School studio, outfitted with equipment donated by Zimmerman, now has a green screen for weather reporting, state-of -the-art Panasonic cameras with teleprompters and up-to-date production equipment.
The facility also features a production room with audio and video controls, video editors, teleprompters, a character generator and workspaces for technical directors. Students can communicate via a wireless communication system -- just as in professional broadcast studios. In addition, the production classroom also has work space to allow journalism students to write scripts with student producers for shows.
The studio revamp was done during the school's summer break, and students were given a hands-on tour when school resumed in August. About 100 of the school's 2,700 students in grades 9 through 12 are enrolled in four TV production levels taught by Jovan Conde. The first and second levels teach the basics of TV production, while the third and fourth levels involve hands-on production work.
Over time, the students will be able to go beyond creating a morning news program to produce programming that offers school concerts, athletic competitions and dramatic performances. Student video productions eventually may be posted on the school website.
"Can we help them have a better TV studio? Of course," says Mr. Goldberg. "But the undercurrent is how to [teach them to] exist and thrive in a digital world. This will give them the tools to succeed. We are giving the kids the opportunity to bring their education to 2011. If they don't have those abilities, then their job opportunities will be less."
Zimmerman first became involved with Piper High School three years ago through Florida's Partnership to Advance School Success.
Zimmerman agency staff were also instrumental in assisting a Boys & Girls Club in Broward County with a makeover. Its building was cleaned and painted. The art department produced murals over the entire place to give a feeling of the spirit of what the kids are about.
"Our client services and art people researched the kids and asked them what they wanted to see in their building," Mr. Goldberg says. "We created a new computer lab where there wasn't one before, an art room where they could express themselves and added picnic table benches. We painted new lines on the basketball courts."
Mr. Goldberg says one of the goals of the Boys & Girls Club effort was to show the young people that it is possible for people to take their inherent creativity and use it for good works. He acknowledges that it might be easier to just write a check, but, he says, "it teaches our team the importance of sweat equity."