John Holsclaw celebrates podcast challenge win with Elizabethton High School

State Representative John Holsclaw visited Elizabethton High School Monday to celebrate the winners of last year’s NPR Podcast Competition, and the rest of Tim Wasem’s class, with pizza.

Holsclaw said he heard about EHS’s victory in the 2019 challenge when NPR opened registration for the 2020 challenge just recently, and he wanted to honor his old high school.

“What is important is education,” Holsclaw said. “That will carry you for the rest of your life.”

He also asked several trivia questions about Tennessee, including what the state bird and drink is, and gave out the most recent edition of the Tennessee Blue Book to those who got the questions right.

XQ director Alex Campbell said the attention solidifies the standard EHS set in the competition.

“Hopefully, it highlighted our area nationally,” Campbell said. “I think this is good. He recognizes the importance of education.”

Out of the teams that won the two competitions, EHS stood alongside a middle school in Brooklyn, N.Y., which Wasem said was significant. It showed EHS can and will compete with the rest of the country.

During the luncheon, Holsclaw spoke with the students about what their podcast was about and how it impacted the community.

John Gouge, Jaxton Holly, Deanna Hull and Caleb Miller created a podcast about “Murderous Mary,” the story of an elephant hanging in Erwin in the 20th century. The tale, according to Erwin residents, still carries a certain stigma towards the city to this day, so being able to hear the true version of events was a morale booster for that community at large.

Students are already preparing for the 2020 competition, and to those who are, Wasem said his form of encouragement comes from making sure the students take their time.

“Trust the process,” he said. “They are going at this step-by-step.”

The project itself takes the bulk of the semester to get right, from brainstorming topics to organizing and conducting interviews and editing their own sound files to craft something meaningful.

In a way, Wasem said EHS has an advantage, since many teams will be looking at them and the example they set last year.

“They set the precedent,” Wasem said. “It changes the tone for us.”

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