Injured teacher became inspiration for video project

By Madeline Pena | Published Saturday, April 14, 2012
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ART FACES - Herandi Munoz, Carmen Burciaga and Megan Marie Lyon, Decatur High School students in Brenda Sutton's art class, use a face-in-the-hole art palette as their prop in a schoolwide lip dub April 5.

A smile emerges from my face as I refresh our Vimeo homepage. In only 30 minutes our Lip Dub 2012 video had received 54 views.

I couldn’t believe it; I thought I did everything I could to increase readership of our online newspaper, Was it really that simple? Was that really all we had to do to increase our web traffic?

Actually, the lip dub wasn’t a simple task.

Last December, our newspaper staff brainstormed ideas on what we could do to promote online readership. I was looking at one of the award-winning websites when I came across a lip dub video, a massive lip synch project where footage is shot in one take. Decatur High School could do this, too.

CASE FOR CREATIVITY - Junior Madelina Pena, with the help of the Decatur High School journalism department and Coach David Park, coordinated a schoolwide lip dub dedicated to her Mock Trial team coach and social studies teacher, Susanne Parker. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

I suddenly came to a realization. Why wait for someone else to champion this idea? The journalism department had all the resources needed to take on this adventure. But what good was a lip dub without a purpose?

After I approached the staff with this idea, it didn’t take long to decide that it would be dedicated to Mock Trial coach and social studies teacher Susanne Parker. The campus was caught off guard in December when Mrs. Parker suffered a severe brain injury, leaving her unable to return to her teaching position. Her recovery was going to take time.

With the dedication set, now it was time to choose the opening song. This decision also helped us make a unanimous choice on using the song, “Without You” by Usher. The lyrics personified the emptiness the students and faculty felt.

SCHOOLWIDE PROJECT - Decatur High School students and faculty alike, including Principal Jason Cochran, participated in a lip dub April 5. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

As a member of the Mock Trial team, I was well aware of the impact of Mrs. Parker’s absence. She always stressed the importance of building a strong Mock Trial case. Our jury would be the administration. Thanks to Mrs. Parker, my Mock Trial skills to argue certain points became more apparent than ever.

Our journalism adviser, Cindy Berry, and I met with our principal, Jason Cochran, to discuss the idea. He approved it and told me to have a presentation ready for the February faculty meeting. I knew a good opening argument was key to convincing the “jury” to see my side. Success! The jury ruled in our favor.

A few days after the meeting, I wrote the first email to the entire faculty. I asked the teachers to show their classes samples of a lip dub.

Initially, not everyone shared the same enthusiasm for the lip dub as did the journalism staff. I heard comments from students like, “What’s a lip dub?” and “This is really stupid; why are we even doing this?”

I worried. The second challenge would be finding enough people to audition for a lead role. Our staff did everything. We posted the audition times on our site and Facebook. We sent out mass text messages, and I even extended the submission deadline.

About two weeks before the lip dub, we finally received some video auditions. Classes submitted what they would do for background visuals. The other Youth Spoken writers, Paris Walther and Cristin Morgan, helped me plan the lip dub route. We added a second song, “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins. I embarrassed myself at least 20 times while playing the songs as I walked my way through the twists and turns of the school hallways mapping out the route. I made sure everything would be on cue for our rehearsal, as well as production day.

Fast forward to April 5: Lip Dub 2012.

As the music blares from our school’s PA, I take in a deep breath. This is it. Senior Austin Lamirand and Coach David Park position their cameras and are ready to go. Everything seems to flow seamlessly.

All the planning and the hours finally paid off. Streamers, balloons, confetti, beach balls and costumes colored the blue and white hallways. Everyone cheered and expressed true enjoyment.

I look back at all the things Decatur High School has accomplished. I don’t know if there was ever a time when the entire school worked together for a common goal. Mrs. Parker always wanted her Mock Trial members to work together like a team. I think we expressed that on a larger scale with what Mrs. Parker now calls “Team DHS.”

This project required a massive team effort and would not have been possible without the support of so many. I would like to thank the entire DHS faculty, staff and administration for coming together with your students to make Lip Dub 2012 possible.

Mrs. Berry, thank you for always having faith in my crazy ideas. Coach Park, we had your support and enthusiasm from the start. I can’t thank you enough for thinking on your feet and pumping up the students’ energy level during filming.

Austin, you did a fantastic job filming and editing. You filmed the whole video in one take and despite random confetti, silly string and glitter, you pulled together an awesome video. Cristin, thank you for being the emcee of the lip dub. Your instructions were extremely clear, and everyone knew what to do because of you.

Finally, a big thank you to the journalism department for guiding the entire student body to the auditorium at the end of the video. I couldn’t have done this “Without You.”

HD LipDub2012 from decatur journal on Vimeo.

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