ThunderVision is considered one of the crowning jewels of Westlake High School. From a program that could barely muster 50 views on their earliest Youtube videos is now a state juggernaut that recently took home six first-place trophies at the Broadcast Awards. Many more awards and achievements plaster the walls of the video room, including a first place award on a national level. This all happened within the past two years.
Yet throughout this rise in popularity and resounding success, head of ThunderVision, Nathan Pickett isn’t phased. “Looking back, it’s been pretty cool, but I’m never satisfied. I always want to keep growing.” This is coming from someone who took the teaching job two weeks before the 2016-2017 school was set to begin. “There was a job open, I wanted to try teaching, and the old teacher quit,” recalls Pickett when asked about what motivated him to take the opening with such little time to prepare. “I was scared, I hadn’t taught at any level before and thought I’d give it a shot. I had background knowledge with video and communications.” The previous video teacher at Westlake had left, leaving the school in a tight spot. They reached out and offered Pickett the job.
The video program at Westlake started when the school opened in 2009. When Pickett arrived in 2016 however, ThunderVision itself hadn’t been created. The program prior had more of a focus on broadcasting school events. Pickett, along with the 23 students in the video program at the time, wanted to come up with a name for the program, which would then focus more on creating weekly videos promoting the school. The names to be put up for debate were ThunderNation, Cloud9, and ThunderVision. You can probably guess which one made the cut. When ThunderVision aired its first video on YouTube, there were two students that made videos for it- those two were the only ones who knew how to use the editing software at the time. But this slow start wasn’t fueled by empty hope. Looking back, Pickett recalls that some of the factors of the steady rise were consistency and helping students learn how to use the equipment provided. Momentum really started to gain in early 2017, where the videos that were getting put out weekly garnered around 500 views.
One student who has been apart of ThunderVision since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year and has seen the growth in popularity is Westlake senior Austin Cook. When prompted to give his opinion of Pickett, he had nothing but praise. “He (Pickett) is a great teacher, and you can see where the success comes from.” He also commented on how ThunderVision presents an aspect of family and unity, which in turn provides a greater sense of teamwork and an overall boost in the quality of content put into ThunderVision. “This class is different from other classes because I don’t want to go to other classes,” joked Cook when asked how ThunderVision is different from an average high school curriculum. Many other students in the class have the same feelings about the class. Following the theme of millions of people who decided their “one word” for 2019, I asked Austin to give one statement to not only describe ThunderVision, but also as a call for others to join the class. The statement didn’t disappoint: “We make dope videos!”
Though the emotions in ThunderVision are riding high due to the content they’re putting out and the awards that’ve been won, the end is near for the senior class. This is summed up well by a quote from one of the videos put on ThunderVision: “The seniors graduate in May, and that will be it. Part of the journey is the end.” This comes from the January 19, 2019 episode, where four students created an “Avengers” trailer parody, which is considered to be one of the more popular videos done by ThunderVision (link to video here). But what happens when the seniors currently enrolled in the class graduate and move on? “We want a growth in participation, as well as a wider range of participation,” said Pickett with the May 29th graduation date looming near. Though many students will graduate and start adulting, many juniors are involved in the program, with more and more sophomores becoming involved every year. Pickett seemed very optimistic about what’s to come in the future for ThunderVision. “Looking back, it’s pretty cool to see where we’ve come from, but I’m never satisfied. We just gotta keep growing”
You can find ThunderVision on Youtube by going to youtube.com/thundervision. Subscribe for videos every Friday 2nd period, as well as frequent livestreams.