WKU PBS to offer new skills to troubled teens

Noah Moore

Here at WKU, the saying “the spirit makes the master” is crooned to boost the university’s morale. No matter what it means to you individually, it generally communicates an ideal of having a sound mind to make your work meaningful.

The WKU Broadcasting Department is doing just that as it is revolutionizing the opportunities for troubled students locally, one broadcast at a time.

David Brinkley, WKU’s Director of Educational Telecommunications, has been working with the Warren County Detention Center over the past couple months to create an educational initiative, in which Brinkley claims will “inspire kids to make a positive contribution to society.” This initiative is giving them the chance to create their own broadcasting programs within the walls of the detention center. Brinkley is also working to adapt the program to the Academy at Eleventh Street in Bowling Green, and even the Warren County Jail. As the WKU PBS program evolves, Brinkley noted it is his mission for his team “to serve all the community” and “to actually go do something to fix society.”

The program originated when Brinkley was with crews at the detention center creating a program similar to one called “Scared Straight”, a television program depicting the life inside jails and detention centers with the aim of installing fear in at-risk teens of the repercussions of their actions.

After gazing into what opportunities were offered to the teens daily, Brinkley wanted to give them a differentiated type of educational content centered around television production skills in which Brinkley specializes.

“Our goal was to find an educational initiative that would be unique and show them to believe in themselves as opposed to current educational opportunities in detention centers, which focus more on vocational skills,” Brinkley said.

“The kids in these facilities look and act just like every other teenager. We feel an obligation — I would challenge anyone to not feel for these teenagers,” Brinkley said.

This is precisely what brought him back to the facility.

Once he pitched the idea to his team it resounded and the process began to bring the broadcasting world to those who may have encountered setbacks in their youth. To begin, his teams spent two to three weeks installing state of the art broadcasting equipment into an empty residential area with state approval. Then the creating began.

From Congressman Brett Guthrie to State Justice Secretary John Tilley, the broadcasts have had a fair range of guests and topics. Guthrie even asked if he could return in the near future. In these podcasts, every position, with the exception of director, was occupied by students.

This program was not without challenges. Brinkley said that the students can only communicate through an educator in facility and cannot talk to each other for safety. Given the collaborative nature of the broadcasting industry, this forced Brinkley to create an original curriculum that was made for this type of environment by locking him and his team in the center for two to three hours a day for weeks to truly understand the nature of these teenagers’ lives.

After reflecting on the success the program has had in encouraging these students, Brinkley said he wants the program to spread to detention centers state-wide and is looking for state grants to remediate the potentially large funding needed to travel.

While the program has been in Bowling Green, it has largely been inexpensive due to the local aspect of the project, but adapting it state-wide would necessitate grants.

“It’s not about payment or making money, but it’s the support that this program needs to stay afloat,” Brinkley said.

Still, Brinkley tries to focus less on the expenses and more on the results of this program.

“If it benefits the kids, it will benefit everyone in the long run,” Brinkley said.

Brinkley works with the teens in the center, and if they decide to enroll at WKU after their time, he will offer them a job on the team.

“If you invest in them and show them people care, they will find their place in the world and eventually grow to be successful, despite setbacks in their youth,” Brinkley said.

Reporter Noah Moore can be reached at (270)745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @noah_moore18.