Good Morning, Mason! Radio Camp Tunes Youngsters in to Broadcasting Basics

By Sudha Kamath

From spinning hits and producing newscasts and commercials to touring network news and sports radio stations, dozens of youngsters will get hands-on media experience during WGMU’s Summer Radio Camp this July and August. George Mason University faculty and students will introduce communication, technology and other skills to kids in sixth through 12th grades to help prepare them for higher education and an evolving workforce.

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Mason alumnus Nick Ashooh gives WGMU Radio Camp participants a behind-the-scenes look at his broadcasting duties at ESPN980 sports radio near Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of WGMU Radio.

Rodger Smith is a former radio news director, sports director, on-air talent and advertising/production director. The faculty advisor to WGMU has been bringing his own experience in broadcasting to the Radio Camp since 1996. “I enjoy teaching, and I especially enjoy teaching radio,” says Smith. “It’s great to see the students’ delight in learning a new skill. We want to see them grow.”

Smith says the youngsters learn real-world skills ranging from organizing an on-air break and mixing music to creating advertising and news copy. The middle and high schoolers will work with broadcasting hardware and software at three studios on the Fairfax Campus. They’ll tour the campus to conduct interviews—possibly of faculty, staff, students and visitors—and feature the sound bites in a news broadcast.

The first camp is July 21–25. It will include a visit to WTOP, an all-news radio station in Washington, D.C. The second camp, July 28–August 1, features a field trip to ESPN980, an all-sports radio station near the nation’s capital, and a visit with Mason alumnus and ESPN980 anchor Nick Ashooh.

Rising senior Storm Paglia has been WGMU’s general manager since his sophomore year. This will be his first summer coaching  Radio Camp. “Something like this may encourage the students to go into radio or other types of broadcasting,” says the government and international politics major from Hamilton, N.J.

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WGMU Radio faculty advisor Rodger Smith directs middle and high schoolers during Summer Radio Camp at Mason. Photo courtesy of WGMU Radio.

This is Lauren Poe’s third summer coaching Radio Camp. As a communication major, she feels writing skills are essential. Initially, campers may not be so enthusiastic about putting pen to paper, but they come around quickly.  “Every year when I say ‘Okay, so let’s sit down and write,’ the first thing I hear are grumbles and groans,” says Poe, who plans to graduate in December. “But by the end of the week the kids are way more engaged and really have interesting and funny things to say through their writing. I hope that means I have made writing seem more exciting and a means of expression, as opposed to a chore that teachers assign.”

Poe, who is from Culpeper, Va., says honing her skills at WGMU helped her land an internship this summer at WZRV radio in Front Royal, Va. “Radio has been a great start to show me what’s available with the skills I have developed at Mason,” she says, adding that she hopes that may lead her to a screen career. “I would probably want to be on the crew or the talent for work on documentaries or film in some way.”

The camp has had quite a following for nearly two decades. Smith has seen some of the same students return. And over the years, siblings have come on board. Some participants have gone on to become Mason students. Others come from several states away to attend the camp.

Camp profits go to WGMU, which Smith emphasizes is run on self-generated revenue.

More information is available by emailing Smith at or by calling 703-993-2874.