When Booker T. Washington student Aylon Gipson learned that his school had been destroyed by an Aug. 18 fire, his heart sank. Gone was the broadcast equipment he had used and all the work he had produced over the last two years.
On Tuesday, thanks to a donation of five cameras, accessories, a sound board and editing equipment by Troy University, Gipson along with other broadcast students had a renewed sense of hope and a desire to make the most of the opportunities ahead.
Walter Givhan, TROY’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, and other members of the staff, presented the equipment to Principal Dr. Quesha Starks, broadcast teacher Richard Walker and a classroom full of students.
“When we at Troy University heard about the fire at Booker T. Washington our hearts went out,” Givhan said. “This is a pipeline for some of our most talented students who come to TROY to study broadcast journalism. We were blessed to have surplus equipment that we could make a gift of today. We don’t want these students to miss a step. This is to get into their hands so they can continue to do the great work they are doing. We hope others will contribute to making this school whole again.”
Donna Schubert, associate vice chancellor for marketing and communication whose department includes TROY’s Broadcast and Digital Network, said the University saw the need and knew that it could meet that need for the benefit of Booker T. Washington students.
“At Troy University we have always been about a great education and hands on experience,” Schubert said. “We were absolutely heartbroken when we watched the fire at Booker T. Washington. We knew that these great students weren’t going to have that equipment they needed to learn and become great journalists. We talk about the Trojan Warrior spirit. It stays with you when you leave Troy University. It is a love for one another and a love for good. We hope that this is a gift for good for the students of Booker T. Washington.”
Walker called the gift a “Godsend.”
“The gift we have received from Troy University is amazing,” he said. “It is going to allow our students to continue the work that they have been doing. Before the fire we had three cameras, and now, thanks to TROY, we have five cameras and other equipment as well. I’m so grateful and I know the students are as well.”
For Gipson, who admitted he had been in tears 10 days earlier in the aftermath of the fire, Tuesday’s donation was invigorating.
“Now I feel amazing,” Gipson said, his smile conveying the emotions of the moment. “After the fire, we had no equipment and now we are already ahead of where we were before. I appreciate every single person who has donated time or money just to help us out. It really has been amazing to see the response. We all will work really hard to make everyone proud.”
The equipment is just a part of an ongoing partnership with TROY, Dr. Starks said.
“We are so thankful for this generous gift from Troy University, but our partnership with TROY goes beyond this equipment,” she said. “Our students have had the opportunity through the years to participate in TROY’s J-Day event, and this year, they are going courtesy of TROY. We are so grateful for Troy University and this partnership.”
Putting equipment back in the hands of the students is an important step, according to Aaron Taylor, TV production coordinator at TROY.
“Practical, hands-on experience is crucial in this business,” Taylor said. “At TROY, we know how important it is for students to have the experience of learning to use the equipment. We already have a relationship with some of these BTW students through our J-Day program. We want to see these students move up and become part of the TrojanVision family. We want to give these students to opportunity to succeed at becoming professional journalists.”
TROY alumnus and WSFA anchor Tonya Terry was on hand for the presentation, providing encouragement for students sprinkled with a touch of her own Trojan pride.
“If you are a BTW student and then you go to TROY, you ought to be able to write your own ticket,” Terry told the students. “We are super proud of you all and the work you do, and I am going to be looking for great things out of every one of you.”