14 Apr 2023
GENERATION RISING: HOW A SENIOR AT THE MET IS LIVING HER DREAM AT RI PBS
Walk along the banks of Providence’s Mashapaug Pond and you’ll notice a radio tower alongside a giant satellite dish. It’s a juxtaposing image denoting the landmark that is Rhode Island PBS. On any given Monday, inside its studios, you’ll find a group of TV professionals putting on a show that’s unique and new to the brand: ‘Generation Rising’.
Standing out amongst a busy team is teenager Melany Arias, waiting in the wings behind a teleprompter, ready and eager to help. The Met senior is the show’s first paid intern, the experience part of a pilot program funded by The Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC).
“I’m really living a dream”
“I’m really living a dream,” Arias said. “I’m really learning. I would do this without the money, but it’s a plus. I’m learning to organize and promote, how to catch people’s attention. I’m learning to edit, produce, and how to approach people the proper way.” Arias says working the show has opened her eyes to a world of possibilities. She’s convinced she wants to pursue a career in TV production. RI PBS Director of Development Kristen Haffenreffer believes helping Arias, and potentially other students, build confidence in their capabilities, motivates them to keep the program running. “The [POC] grant enabled us to reach out to an area school to identify a high school senior from the BIPOC community, who has an interest in the field,” said Haffenreffer. “We recognize that having a racially diverse host champion a show tackling the community’s challenges, isn’t enough.” Haffenreffer says the station’s leadership team arrived at this conclusion amidst the process of rebooting the long running show, ‘In Another Opinion.’ Its beloved host was retiring, and they were reorganizing the broadcast to target a younger demographic.
“In 2021, more than half of PBS’ national primetime schedule included diverse on-screen talent; was produced, written, or directed by diverse makers; and explored diversity-related topics. The percentage is higher still for PBS primetime documentaries. While this is impressive, it is not the case at Rhode Island PBS,” Haffenreffer said. “In large part due to the POC’s core value of addressing the BIPOC community almost exclusively, we were encouraged to take initiative about how we could approach diversity – not only at this station, but the field, in general.”
Since that realization, author and advocate Dr. Kiara Butler was brought on board to host ‘Generation Rising.’ And conversations with diverse members of the show’s production led them to create the internship program. Its foremost goal is to expose students of color to the business and career opportunities behind the television industry.
“They articulated that the entire field of television production, from producers and editors to photographers and journalists, is very monochromatic,” said Haffenreffer. “Reaching out to the community, in a meaningful way, and making students aware of this industry so that people of color have access to jobs like engineering, editing, photojournalism and executive producer was and is the goal.”
Airing on the first and third Fridays of each month, ‘Generation Rising’ is a docuseries that focuses on inequalities in Rhode Island. The 30-minute program is hosted by Dr. Butler, who says she’s thrilled to have a student’s shadowing experience stretch beyond observations.
“I didn’t know anything about TV at all until I got here and saw this set. And I saw all the things that go into it, all the language, it’s a completely different world,” said Dr. Butler. “The fact that our intern is being exposed to this dynamic so early and getting the real-life, real-world experience, hands on, and getting paid for it. That’s a big deal. She gets to go and put that on a resume, and she has an income that she can use for whatever. I’m so happy to have her working with us.”