Holding up three fingers, Kali Drake, the radio station’s music director, began to count down. When she reached zero, she pressed the button for Annie Burge to go on air.
“Hello to all the listeners out there,” Burge said. “You probably know me as Mrs. Burge from the library, but I am booked for the next hour as DJ Dewey Decimal, and I will be bringing you a mix of songs inspired by literature. ... Make sure you bring your library card so you can check it out.”
Drake pressed the button again to stop the recording. That was awesome, Burge said.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Cleveland High School took part in High School Radio Day, joining other high school radio stations in broadcasting for 24 hours to promote awareness. Cleveland High was among three in North Carolina to take part, said John Wood, the station’s adviser and a social studies and journalism teacher at the school. Nationwide, 69 stations in 28 states joined in.
“Those kids in there now didn’t even know how to turn a microphone on two months ago,” Wood said. “And now they are in there showing a teacher how to record voice tracks and how to build radio hour. It’s pretty impressive for me to see that.”
Wood, a former journalist with experience in radio, said he had long wanted to launch a radio station at the high school. The idea came to fruition in January after Wood won two $1,500 grants from the Johnston County Education Foundation.
“It was always in the back of my mind, because I knew these kids could benefit from it,” Wood said. “I knew I wanted to spend the money on the radio station, and that grant helped get me on the air.”
The station airs music, news, sports, talk and local weather. Much of the music is by local artists, giving them exposure.
Wood said the station averages 100 listeners a day. He said he wants the radio station to eventually be a voice of Johnston County.
“We’re Johnston County content,” Wood said. “Stuff that is community specific that you may not hear on the big station. Stuff that our community wants to hear.”
The station has a core group of 12 students; others help out from time to time.
Ralph McClure, who goes by the moniker DJ Ralphie Boy, said he joined the radio station after learning about it in Woods’ journalism class.
“Being in his classes before and seeing how he teaches things and seeing his passion for it, it excited me and it made me want to do it,” said McClure, a senior and the station’s production manager. “He didn’t just come in and say this is just a fun thing. He said if this goes well, I can get you jobs in this; I can get you careers in this.”
Drake, the music director in her senior year at Cleveland High, said she enjoys being able to play the music she wants to hear. And hearing her voice on the radio is a plus too.
“There are actually some days where you come in and want to play this song because I’m in this mood,” Drake said. “And I can listen back to it and say, ‘I did this; I put this together.’”
Anne Meredith, the Cleveland High principal, welcomed the variety that the radio station brings to Cleveland’s extracurricular activities.
“I think it’s important to have as many different things for kids to be successful at as you can,” Meredith said. “Because they come to high school and some of them don’t know what they really want to do, but they try a lot of things. I think it’s a period of life where you try on different outfits to see what fits.
“Not everybody is going to love Shakespeare ... not everybody is going to be a mathematician, not everybody is going to be a great quarterback, but there is something that you can fall in love with and decide what you want to do.”
Want to listen
Go to wramradio.org or download the WRAM radio app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play