‘WITN's Class of 2009’ - Better Than The Best

By: Karin Goodhue
By: Karin Goodhue

'WITN's Class of 2009' is different than the 'Best of the Class'. Read about why we changed it, and how it came to be.

“WITN and Sylvan Learning Center are proud to present WITN’s Class of 2009.” Hearing these words are much different than, “You’re the BEST of the claaaaasss… this year.” WITN viewers have heard those lyrics for the past fifteen years, and it was great while it lasted. But now, it’s time for a change.

The ‘Best of the Class’ is a syndicated trademark that news stations use around the country to promote their local high school seniors. Any station is authorized to use the ‘Best of the Class’ music and graphics… for a fee. WITN bought into the program for years starting in the early 1990s. We featured high school seniors from Eastern North Carolina wearing their caps and gowns, waving at a camera, and… well, that’s about it.

The students of Eastern Carolina deserve more. In early February 2009, Ashley Stephenson (Sales), John Washington (Promotions) and I sat down and brainstormed on how to create that with ‘WITN’s Class of 2009’. First off, we decided that academic credentials should not be the deciding factor for the school’s nomination. We wanted students in our class who had amazing stories that tugged at the heartstrings of our web readers. We wanted seniors who could overcome anything to succeed. We wanted students who had an army of supporters behind them. We wanted a ‘Class of Heroes’. And to feature them properly, we wanted everything personalized.

Just having each student’s name featured in ‘Best of the Class’ wasn’t enough. We wanted viewers to learn about every one of them, read their stories, and discover their plans for the future. We wanted our viewers to see them in their personal environments. We wanted our students to have five seconds of fame in an on-air commercial, their own web page, and a video testimonial. We also wanted to give our Class of 2009 the opportunity to make their own videos, or film their content at the WITN studio.

Since we wanted everything personalized, the students who would choose to come to the studio would not be filmed in their own setting (as opposed to those who made their own videos), so we wanted to give them that personal touch too. We wanted each teenager to have a moving background with their school colors, a choice of background graphic for their online testimonial, and the opportunity to say or do whatever they wanted. We wanted a lot… the best.

When the preliminary work for “Class of 2009” was complete, we picked out new music, received approval from management, and ran with the idea. It was time to turn the idea into reality.

This year, we chose to communicate exclusively via e-mail, instead of post mail that WITN has used in the past. On March 3rd 2009, I sent out eighty invitations to Eastern NC High Schools. They were delivered to each principal or headmaster/headmistress’ school e-mail account. 48 schools responded with a student nomination. I explained the new program to the students, and requested many deadlines. Most of them met the target dates extremely well. Three of the students unfortunately dropped out due to lack of time, leaving 45 total.

Almost ten weeks later, reality has arrived. The commercials are airing, and the website is active with 45 different web pages. I'd like to issue a big THANKS to everyone who helped make it happen. The seniors of 2009 are finally highlighted unlike any other. They have the opportunity to SHINE. I am thankful to have been able to meet them, work with them, and learn about their amazing young lives.

Click Here to view the Students of 'WITN's Class of 2009'

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by anon. Location: NC on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:27 AM
    Where was Martin and Halifax Co. Schools?
  • by disgusted mom Location: Bath on Jul 15, 2009 at 02:37 PM
    Another reason Northside high school in Pinetown needs new administration. they are the reason from the ex principal to the well known athletic director there that NHS has gone down so much. they do not are about the students there. shame on them!!
  • by Mary on Jun 16, 2009 at 06:40 PM
    I would like to see a nomination process not from the schools, but from your station with a resume and application process and a scholarship too. It is amazing when outsiders look at students, not based on favoritism, but merit. (FCHS)
  • by shirley Location: Penna. on Jun 14, 2009 at 04:51 PM
    Hi--what a great idea this was to present a story of this amazing students on your blog--I went through each story and what a group of students came through for you and just think this is just the tip of the iceberg who have a great story to tell--this young people have such determination and love of family and have great pride in their schools that adults could learn alot from them about what life is all about--hats off for such a great idea and hope you will do it again--this is the hope of this country--thanks for sharing it with us!!!
  • by Respond to Anonymous on Jun 4, 2009 at 02:44 PM
    New Bern wasn't omitted. If you read before you comment, you'll see that all schools were invited. Obviously New Bern was one of the schools who didn't respond.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 4, 2009 at 12:53 PM
    Why was New Bern Senior High School omitted?
  • by Lauren Location: Hobgood Academy on Jun 3, 2009 at 05:52 AM
    i like the change. it gives good students who well rounded (sports, community activity, etc) a chance to be recognized. i hope Hobgood Academy was contacted. i hope someone will respond next year.
  • by A Senior on Jun 1, 2009 at 10:33 AM
    Do people forget that valedictorians are recognized during graduation when they give their speech to the whole class. And everyone at school knows who they are. They get recognized plenty. Give me a break. Why not let the other outstanding kids get a chance too. Plus, my sister was in Best of the Class years ago, and she wasn't valedictorian. So it wasn't ever based just on that. Not everyone can be featured, so stop fussing. Class of 2009 looks great!
  • by kc Location: Williamston on May 29, 2009 at 05:57 PM
    I have personally worked with the principal of WHS and know for a fact that he is an advocate for the students. I also know that he is very conscientious about checking emails. Since none of Martin County Schools are represented, I think it's only fair to give these principals the benefit of the doubt and not assume they wouldn't want to promote the accomplishments of the very children they seek to educate. It sounds like there may have been a problem with the way the schools were contacted. All of our schools have some very fine students with many success stories. I wish all of the stories could be told, but I know in my heart that the mistake was not intentional. Best of luck to all of the graduates. We are proud of you!
  • by Disagree Location: Windsor on May 28, 2009 at 09:12 AM
    The children work hard to accomplish such goal as being the #1 in their class academically. They have looked forward to the day of being seen on WITN as the top of their class academically. Why are you killing that dream for them? Just as they have many dreams in life beyond high school, this is one of the biggest dreams of accomplishment for the world to know they really achieved academically too. Please go back to recognize the top of the class academically. Yes, I am one all for change and LOVE change tremendously, but not change for the worst (killing a child's dream of being recognized as #1 in their class ranking.
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