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'Mister Rogers' Documentary Wins Award for Excellence

Seven Fox Chapel Area High School students and graduates received a 2021 Student Production Award for Excellence from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).  The students won the award for “Our Assignment from Fred Rogers,” a 70-minute documentary on the life and work of Mister Rogers.

The Fox Chapel Area students won in the long-form category for the documentary that they began producing in April of 2019 that was released in July 2020.  The documentary included interviews with Mister Rogers’ biographer Maxwell King; David Newell who played Mr. McFeely on the long-running children’s television show; producers Hedda Sharapan and Margy Whitmer; and Mister Rogers’ wife, Joanne.  

The Fox Chapel Area High School students involved were 2019 graduates Adina Munin (producer) and Santiago de la Torre; 2021 graduates Jean Daniher (producer), Ryan Kenyon, and Jonathan Snider; and 2020-2021 juniors Anushka Vis and Lance Wilhelm (director).  Additionally, digital media production teacher Ryan Devlin and Jessica Morris, a then-college student intern at Fox Chapel Area High School who is now a math teacher at Dorseyville Middle School, were also involved with the production.

The NATAS Mid-Atlantic Chapter’s Student Production Awards recognize outstanding cultural, educational, technological, entertainment, news, and informational achievements by high school students in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.  All entries were judged by media professionals and college educators from within the chapter.  Each winning entry receives an engraved crystal pillar award and all nominees receive individualized Academy certificates.

COVID-19 made this past year difficult for everyone, including students that have transitioned into new formats of learning.  But even so, they remained committed to their passion of producing outstanding creative work that impressed the judges, said Eric Heisler, president of the NATAS mid-Atlantic Chapter.  “As we celebrate student achievement, we also acknowledge the educators that made this past year a success for their students.  While our chapter takes great pride in supporting the development of our next generation of television and media professionals, we recognize that development begins in the classroom with dedicated mentors.”

This year’s awards program was streamed virtually on May 20 and featured Erin Coleman of NBC10 in Philadelphia, Mike Holden of WPXI in Pittsburgh, and Jackie De Tore of Fox43 in Harrisburg as award presenters. 

The Fox Chapel Area High School student documentary, “Our Assignment from Fred Rogers,” is available on the Swift Fox Media YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/0ijzTmatpdM

The Mid-Atlantic NATAS is a nonprofit, professional association with more than 700 members in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware representing more than 32 television stations, numerous cable companies, and programmers, as well as independent producers, production facilities, and educational institutions.