When Brandon Vickrey was younger, he'd turn down the TV volume as he watched Cubs games.
Most of us do it just to dull the pain. Vickrey did it to practice his skills.
"It's my dream to be the play-by-play broadcaster for the Cubs," he said.
That's my dream, too, but Vickrey has 31 years more of a chance to make his a reality.
The Portage High School senior already has a head start on his career aspirations.
Vickrey and classmate Collin Czilli are a multimedia conglomerate of sorts, the brains behind Pow Wow Radio and INN (Indian News Network), the information sources for all things Portage High.
"It started out where I wanted to get involved in sports somehow," said Vickrey, also the editor-in-chief of Pow Wow, the school newspaper. "Now journalism's what I'm really passionate about."
Vickrey will attend Valparaiso University and major in journalism-broadcasting. A former page for Congressman Peter Visclosky, Czilli plans to go to Indiana University Northwest and major in political science.
The two have shared common ground since the fourth grade, when they collaborated on a newsletter. In eighth grade, they started their own show on the website, Blog Talk Radio. As they moved on to high school, they aspired to get into something more substantive.
The freshmen approached then-assistant principal Tom Sanidas about developing an in-school radio station. Sanidas joked that they had faces for radio and referred them to Melissa Deavers-Lowie, the journalism teacher and newspaper adviser. Administration gave the OK and before long, they were on the air.
"Everything we've been able to do is a testament to the school being willing to trust us doing this live," Vickrey said.
When the school fieldhouse was built, the expansive facility included studio space and basic radio-TV equipment to hold a media studies class, but the class was kept at the Porter County Career Center and the area sat vacant.
It remained dormant until Vickrey and Czilli came along, and it is now the electronic media nerve center. INN, which started in Jan. 2010, airs via closed circuit TV. Vickrey and Eric Mesarch do a five-to-seven-minute broadcast of school news, weather and sports, including staff-produced game highlights, three mornings a week. It is piped into TVs in classrooms.
"I look forward to Monday, Wednesday and Friday because I know I'm doing INN that day," Czilli said.
The radio programming airs on the web at www.powwowradio.net with links on Facebook and Portage High School News Online. In addition to live broadcasts and a post-game football show, Vickrey hosts a weekly show called Indian Sports Corner.
"It's come leaps and bounds from where we started," Vickrey said. "We don't try to put anything in a positive or negative light. We just try to inform and represent the school."
As if the two have the time, they also run the stadium and gym message board for 10 sports and are public address operators at games. Nothing like long hours and little/no pay to get them acclimated to their future.
"It's piqued my interest in other activities that I wouldn't have been interested in," said Czilli, whose role is largely behind the scenes. "It's allowed me to do things you normally wouldn't do as a high school student. It's like a legacy for us, something we started that we want to come back in 10 years and see thriving."
The start of a broadcasting class this year will help in that regard, though replacing pioneers like Vickrey and Czilli won't be easy.
"The biggest thing you have to have is a passion for what you do," Vickrey said, "a commitment to put out a good product."
Amen to that.
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.