Wizards and Blazers produce new reading PSA

Nov. 13, 2003, midnight | By Zach Mellman | 20 years ago

A group of close to 40 awestruck Blair students walked out of a tunnel onto the MCI Center's court on Oct 16. Banners hung from the ceiling telling some of the history of the Wizards' franchise, while interviews and photo sessions took place across the court. The Blazers were not simply spectators on this media day; they were there to produce a public service announcement (PSA) alongside several of the Wizards.

Members of Blair media productions, electronic news gathering (ENG) and Special Alternative Reading classes (SPARC) took part in the PSA in partnership with the Washington Wizards for the Wizards' Read to Achieve campaign. The 30-second PSA will be aired on the cable television channel Comcast Sports Net, as well as on screens at all 82 Wizard games.

According to Blair alum Sashir Jones, the senior director of community relations for the Wizards and Mystics, the Read to Achieve program is intended to encourage people of all ages to read. "The purpose of the PSA is to promote literacy for adults and children. From the PSA, I hope to put the message out that reading is important and that you read to achieve," she said.

The script for the student-run PSA was written by seniors Matt Everhart and Larry Mott and junior Christopher Nguyen-Gia. It was directed by junior Michael Firrisa and produced by Everhart. The broadcast features Wizards Juan Dixon, Jared Jefferies and Jarvis Hayes.

In the PSA, the three players are joined by Mott, senior Victor Arumemi and sophomores Prince Okrah and Jay Asbell on the Wizards bench. Jefferies asks Dixon why he has The Cat in the Hat, and Arumemi explains the importance of reading. After Dixon makes a nice play on the court, he returns to the bench and explains to the players that they should "read to achieve," causing Jefferies and Hayes to dive for the book which Dixon has left on the floor. In the stands behind the bench, nearly three dozen Blazers cheer and yell the PSA's slogan, "read to achieve."

This was the first time most of the Blazers produced anything of this magnitude, but they were helped by the Wizards television staff. Wizards cameraman Quentin Addison, who aided Firrisa and Everhart in the making of the PSA, believes that this opportunity allowed the students to understand the effort it takes to put a broadcast like this together. "Making the PSA really [was] a chance to show the students that it's not as easy as it looks. It's hard work behind the scenes. It takes hours to do a 30-second piece," he said.

SPARC teacher Jeanette Simmons and media productions teacher Shay Taylor have had a longtime partnership with the Wizards' reading initiative and helped to set up the PSA.

Read to Achieve is the most extensive educational outreach initiative in the history of professional sports, reaching an estimated 50 million children every year.

Some players were available afterwards to sign autographs and talk with fans. After the filming was complete, Hayes and Dixon chatted with students about the upcoming NBA season and the Wizards' prospects. Both players were optimistic about their individual roles on the team and the team's chances of making the playoffs.

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Zach Mellman. Zach Mellman was born on October 18, 1956 (he was held back once or twice). He has lived in Takoma Park, Maryland his entire life. He is currently a senior at Blair enrolled in honors classes. He is also a member of Blair's golf team, … More »

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