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VUHS student nets afterschool video award

VERGENNES — Of the three people who learned that a video on the Vergennes After School bicycle maintenance class had won a statewide award on March 25, Robert Burbo betrayed the least emotion — which was strange, considering that he had made the video.
But this is how the soft-spoken Vergennes Union High School sophomore approaches most things, whether it is helping to set up a computer network for the middle school or deciding where to make a cut on a video he has filmed. Learning that he had won $1,000 and six Flip video cameras for the afterschool program was no different.
“It felt pretty good,” said Burbo quietly, when asked about the award last week.
In September, VUHS launched its Vergennes After School program after receiving a five-year, $487,000 federal 21st Century Learning Centers block grant in August — it is one of the few high schools to host such a program. The Lights, Camera, Learning contest was sponsored by the Vermont Center for Afterschool Excellence, which partners with the Vermont Department of Education to promote and enhance afterschool opportunities.
When Vergennes After School began in September, program director Jill Strube set an initial goal of offering 2,000 program hours to students in grades seven through nine over the course of the year. So far, the program has more than doubled its goal — it has offered over 4,000 hours of classes and club time since September, with one more session of new programs coming up after spring break. And Strube hopes to eventually extend the program’s offerings to high schoolers as well.
Among the afterschool program’s current classes are tech club, homework club, a self-defense class, a knitting class and Bicycle Works, which was featured in the video. In the class, Tim Mathewson of Little City Cycles teaches students basic bike mechanics, with the eventual goal of having the students help refurbish bikes to donate to local migrant workers.
When Strube heard about the contest, she suggested to Burbo that he take on the video.
When Burbo accepted the challenge, he already had a great deal of video experience — he filmed last year’s graduation, and he does afterschool video work for several VUHS teachers. Still, making this video posed its own learning experiences — he had never worked on Final Cut Express, a video editing program that VUHS Technology Integration Specialist (or self-described “tech guy”) Tom Heller purchased recently.
But Burbo was quick to catch on to the new software, with the help of fellow 10th-grader Jesse Bundy, who had already done some work with the program.
Strube said Burbo was a quick study. She recalled how impressed she was as she watched him make each cut and place transitions and titles, easily piecing the video together.
“He just has a sense for it,” she said.
Burbo said he became interested in making videos at some point in middle school, and from there began picking up the skills wherever he could. Asked how he learned to edit, Burbo shrugged.
“You just do it,” he said. “And if it doesn’t work, you change it.”
The video-making team included Burbo, who filmed and edited the video; Bundy, who assisted with the editing; Heller, who narrated and provided some technical support; and Strube, who wrote the script. They submitted it several weeks before the deadline.
Waiting to hear back from the judges was nerve-wracking; none of the team knew what kinds of videos theirs was up against.
“At first I was hoping (I’d won),” said Burbo. “But as the time passed I was starting to wonder.”
The awards were given out in March, at the Vermont Afterschool for All Legislative Day in Montpelier. Though Burbo was in school that day and did not attend, Strube was there to accept the award.
Heller convinced Burbo to stay around after school that Thursday (struggling not to give away the surprise). Strube walked in with the box full of brand new cameras, and Burbo found out that he had won.
With this award behind him, Burbo will continue doing video projects around the school. He also recently started an internship with the Regional Education Technology Network, or RETN, where he’ll be filming and editing. And for all the hours he spends working with technology, he also finds time to row and play lacrosse and football.
He shrugged when asked whether he’d be pursuing video after high school.
“Possibly,” he said.
Heller chimed in.
“No, he has no choice. I’ve told him that,” he said.
Burbo’s three-minute video can be viewed on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYQ9MMuogwY.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at andreas@addisonindependent.com.

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