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Collaboration The Key To MHS 'Together' Video

Fittingly, the inspiring “Together” video produced at Manchester High School recently was a collaborative effort involving dozens of people representing groups and individuals throughout the school and beyond.

“I feel really good about what we did,” said Morgan Keyt, a senior and a member of the period 7 broadcast journalism class (shown in the accompanying photo) that anchored the effort to videotape more than 60 scenes, connected by a script that reveals a proud, diverse, caring community,.

“Together we rise, together we fall,” the script begins, those phrases spoken by students Jakob Lopez and Julia Pardi as they are flanked by members of the cross-country team.

“Individually we are different,” adds Tim Diebolt, speaking from the chorus room.

“Together we are one,” says PJ Buccheri, as he stands in front of his basketball teammates and catches a ball thrown from someone off camera.

And so it goes -- a four and a half minute video that has been viewed more than 1,500 times on YouTube and prompted compliments from all over.

The idea came from Principal Jill Krieger, who in mid-November saw a video produced by a high school in Texas that featured lots of students speaking out against mean-spirited behavior.

Krieger shared the video with Linda Iacobellis, an assistant principal who is part of the MHS climate committee. Iacobellis, in turn, spoke to Eric Larson, who oversees the broadcast journalism program.

These conversations took place just days before the school had a pep rally, and at that event the effervescent Larson helped hype up the crowd by urging students sitting in the bleachers to shout -- section by section, as loud as they could -- the word “Together.”

The project was getting an identity. Larson drafted a script, and shared it with Nurun Nahar and Valeria Popolizio -- co-editors of Harbinger, the MHS student newspaper.

“With a few keyboard strokes they arranged it into something they felt was more student friendly,” Larson said.

Meanwhile, Iacobellis clued in the staff at a faculty meeting.

“I talked about the concept of spreading kindness and being together,” she said, adding that everyone was encouraged to suggest groups that should have a voice in the video.

“From there it took flight,” Larson said.

He added: “But in order to be something positive for the students, I felt it needed to be made by them.”

His period 7 class -- which usually works on its every-other-week edition of  “The Pulse,” a news magazine -- shifted all of its attention to the project.

They divided the script into 62 different lines, and the 14 class members (and a few students from other classes with video expertise) each took two or three lines and set out to tape the clips.

The opening snippet was filmed in the “lower gym” moments before Coach Roy Roberts took his team onto the field for the Thanksgiving eve football game against East Hartford. The other clips were all pre-arranged and relied on coordinating schedules of various groups and individuals -- from members of the swim team to the hand bell choir to Manchester Mayor Jay Moran.

Morgan and classmate Stella Coletti were the overseers and editors, and Morgan herself spent (by Larson’s estimation) close to 24 total hours editing the video.

“The difficult part was dealing with the different volume and lighting from each segment,” she said, “making sure it was all cohesive.”

They also had to select what is called “B roll” -- transitional background images, everything from a shot from the Manchester Road Race to a glimpse of Big Mitch, a security guard, giving dabs to a student in the hallway.

All this happened with serious time pressure because the class got the script on Dec. 7 and the video was scheduled to be shown during student assemblies (is that right?) on Dec. 23 -- the last day before the holiday break.

Larson said it was difficult to “let the team go and stand back to only advise” but he was thrilled with the way they responded and extremely proud of the result.

Added Iacobellis: “It was an unbelievably rewarding experience.”

As for Morgan Keyt -- she said that when she watches the video she sees various technical things that she wishes she had done differently or could do over. But any such personal nitpicking, she adds, is dwarfed by the pride she said she shares with everyone involved because they feel strongly about a school that is has so many people who care about each other so much.

“I’ve even had lots of alumni contact me,” she said, “and they tell me that they cried when they watched it.”

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