LIHUE — For the past five years, Sean Doi and his student-driven production team have scoured public schools on Kauai, spotlighting student accomplishments.
Visual storytelling, Doi explained, has an effect on people to which nothing else can compare.
“Newsletters and hard copies are all good, but when people see things through video, it really resonates with people, especially in an island community like Kauai where everyone knows each other,” Doi said. “I’m a positive guy who likes to tell stories. I never had formal training in video, but just the thought of video being a visual learner, kind of made me go in that direction.”
Every month, Kauai’s Shining Stars’ 30-minute show highlights projects and student-driven activities that are happening in the island’s public schools.
“It’s an Internet-based show that is meant to feature some of the bright spots going on in our schools,” Doi said. “Bright spots meaning things that are going on that are successful. It’s not only successful things. It’s also informative as well.”
Visually-driven media allows its viewers to see students in action rather than just hearing about their activities in open houses at school.
“Inherent in education and media, it’s always the negative things that get publicity,” Doi said. “There are great things going on in public schools and this is a public school thing. There are great things happening that don’t get noticed and everyone is working hard. It’s important to get the word out on the positive things that are going on, as well as recognizing those who put in a lot of effort.”
Shot, produced and edited within a 20-day time frame, Doi and his team of five students and two adult camera operators dedicate their time and effort to giving something to their community that people can take pride in.
“There’s grandmas, grandpas, aunties and uncles recognizing faces, and there’s a tremendous amount of pride that goes into being a part of the show and watching someone you know that is on the show,” Doi said. “We have a very humble school population where no-one wants to toot their own horn. We just try to capture and share what they’re doing for them.”
As a curriculum and instruction literacy specialist, Doi works to teach teachers at other schools effective ways of learning.
“Each year, the show grows in popularity,” Doi said. “We get a lot of positive comments. We don’t have (analytics) to see how many views we get on each video or anything like that, but definitely on the street and around the community we get a lot of positive feedback. Video resonates with a lot of people.”
Supertintendent Bill Arakaki, who has appeared as a guest on the Shining Stars program, believes that digital media has given Doi and these students a new way of communicating efforts being made in public schools, providing an alternative way for the public to understand what students are learning.
“I’m very proud of Kauai Shining Stars,” Arakaki saidw. “We have a great host, editor and student reporter/camera operator that makes this a popular show for everyone to view. Technology today provides the venue to watch the great successes of our DOE ohana.”
The project has been evolving over the past five years, and Doi is pleased with its direction.
“I hear the frustration from schools that we just got bad publicity and the teachers have parent nights and newsletters, but I just wanted to, not so much offer a service, but supplement their request to build better relationships within the community,” Doi said. “They wanted people to understand what Kauai public schools are about.”
What’s happening is progressive learning. Classes such as digital media are offered in public schools, even at the intermediate level.
Haven Ventura, an 11th-grader at Kauai High School, found her niche in digital media classes when she was in the seventh-grade and has been Doi’s on-camera student-reporter this year.
“This is a really cool opportunity to help with something like this,” Ventura said. “It’s good exposure. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do (after I graduate), but it definitely opens up my eyes about doing something like this, something in media and broadcast.”
Every year, Doi selects a student-reporter to be the face of the program. Some students who are chosen, like Ventura, have gone to study and and work in digital media. In fact, one of Doi’s former reporters helped design the Kauai Shining Stars logo and another former student is currently interning on Oahu at a local news station while studying broadcast journalism.
For Ventura, being on camera can be still be a nerve-wracking experience, but she’s proud to be a part of something unique. As for Doi, he’s just happy to share stories about students and teachers.
“We’re the only island that does something like this,” Doi said. “Other schools do stuff on their morning announcements and stuff like that, but what we’re doing is supplementing what schools are doing. When we’re able to take something good that a school is doing and share that with others, that’s very rewarding. People light up when they get an opportunity to share something they’re passionate about.”