Friends of THIRTEEN and WNET Salute Macaulay Honors College 10th Anniversary

November 15th, 2011

Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of WNET, Dorothy Pacella, Executive Director of the Friends of THIRTEEN, and members of the Friends of THIRTEEN board joined the Macaulay Honors College in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Macaulay is the flagship honors program of the City University of New York, established in 2001 to attract top college applicants to CUNY with diverse academic and professional opportunities, extraordinary advisors, and a full academic scholarship. Since 2007, WNET has partnered with Macaulay to bring on exceptional students and alumni as volunteers, interns, production assistants, and staffers.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKyHL_wc9Qg&w=512&h=328]

The anniversary event featured students and alumni telling stories of how Macaulay helped them achieve personal “firsts.” “Tonight you are seeing an institution that puts students at the center of everything we do,” said Dean Ann Kirschner. “Macaulay students are an incredibly talented, hard-working, and inspirational group.”

One of the featured student/alumni stories covered a recent highlight of the Macaulay-WNET partnership: a segment for SundayArts called “My First Opera.” Macaulay alumnus Daniel T. Allen, Production Coordinator for MetroFocus, WNET’s local news and culture magazine, presented alongside current student George Kruchinina about the project. During their winter break, six Macaulay freshmen spent weeks backstage as The Metropolitan Opera prepared Nixon in China for its Met debut. The SundayArts segment followed the students as they interacted with and interviewed composer John Adams, director Peter Sellars, Met general manager Peter Gelb and the many other professionals who make opera possible.

Watch My First Opera on PBS. See more from SundayArts.

Daniel began at WNET as an intern and went on to serve as the first Director of Community Engagement for Friends of THIRTEEN. He helped to develop several local documentaries including local supplements to Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and The Tenth Inning. Since joining WNET, Dan has been instrumental in establishing and cementing Macaulay’s partnership with the station. Since Dan came on in 2007, Macaulay has provided WNET with dozens of interns and volunteers, contributing hundreds of hours of volunteer service. Five Macaulay Honors College alumni are full-time employees at WNET.

The partnership has been beneficial for both parties, giving Macaulay students real world experience at one of New York’s premiere media, arts, and educational organizations, and offering the station access to a talented pool of passionate young pre-professionals with diverse interests. WNET looks forward to continuing this fruitful partnership for many years to come!

Brooklyn College film students network with WNET.ORG and HBO

December 9th, 2009

By Daniel T. Allen, Community Engagement Coordinator, Friends of Thirteen, Inc.

The Friends of THIRTEEN is a nonprofit organization of volunteers who act as liaisons between THIRTEEN and the community to: INCREASE engagement with the station’s quality programming; PROMOTE use of its innovative educational resources; and EXPAND support for public media as one of our nation’s great cultural resources. For more information about Friends please contact Executive Director Dorothy Pacella at 212.560.2800 or Pacella@thirteen.org.

On December 7th, WNET.ORG’s Director of Business Development Rich Siegmeister joined Greg Rhem, Director of Documentary Acquisitions at HBO, in speaking to a group of 40 Brooklyn College film students about how to build a career in today’s film and media industry.

WNET.ORG's Rich Siegmeister and HBO's Greg Rhem chat with CUNY film students.
Photo Credit: Daniel Cowen

“Perspectives on Film Careers,” a panel discussion, was co-hosted by the CUNY Film Festival (CUFF), the Brooklyn College Film Society and Friends of Thirteen.

CUFF founder Daniel Cowen began the evening by introducing his vision for a citywide community of student filmmakers collaborating on various projects. “There are 440,000 students in the CUNY system, we should all be working together,” he said.

Cowen said he would eventually like to see the CUNY Film Festival mushroom into a CUNY Film Fund that would help student filmmakers finance their projects.

During the discussion, Siegmeister and Rhem stressed that while the task of breaking into the business may seem daunting, their own career paths show that there are many alternatives.

Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Center

December 1st, 2009

By Daniel Allen, Community Engagement Coordinator, Friends of Thirteen

THIRTEEN volunteers, staff members, Cyberchase star Digit and Macaulay Honors College students bring holiday cheer to Lincoln Center.

Season’s Greetings! Last night, a group of volunteers, WNET.ORG staff, Macaulay Honors College students and Cyberchase celebrity Digit took to the streets outside of the THIRTEEN and WLIW21 Studio for Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Center, a holiday festival that included a tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment, food tastings, in-store activities and shopping around and about the colorful and vibrant neighborhood.

At the event, volunteers handed out over 2500 goodie bags stuffed with CD and DVD premiums, a THIRTEEN program guide and other treats like a Cyberchase pencil. Staff members answered questions about the station and asked folks to sign up for a raffle of other THIRTEEN give-aways.

For me, the best part was overhearing the reactions of passersby, not to mention seeing the excitement of children’s interactions with Digit. “Man, I love this, I LOVE this,” said one man after getting his gift bag. And a teenage girl: “I have a problem, I think I watch too much PBS.”

While it was great to see so many people carrying bags emblazoned with the THIRTEEN and WLIW21 logos, the most important part of last night was that people were talking about us. Many were unaware of the new studio but were very excited to hear more about it.

Sara Sanders, a Macaulay Honors College freshman at CUNY Baruch College had this to say about Winter’s Eve:

“The experience was very exhilarating. I helped pass out free gifts to many New Yorkers and appreciated meeting different residents of the neighborhood. I attended the festival last year and enjoyed it, but this year I had an entirely new experience. It was nice spreading the word of a company who provides great public media for the nation. The staff was also really friendly and helpful. Overall, it was a great experience and I highly recommend anyone to volunteer for THIRTEEN in the future!”

As our anticipation for the new studio builds, we hope that the community will share in that excitement. People love THIRTEEN, we can’t wait to show that we love them back!

At Friends of THIRTEEN Board Meeting, PBS President Paints a Bright Picture for the Future of Public Media

October 27th, 2009

Paula Kerger – President and CEO of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) – returned “home” to WNET.ORG on October 21st to address the Board of Directors of the Friends of THIRTEEN. Kerger, who began her public broadcasting career at THIRTEEN, was the keynote speaker in a meeting that also featured presentations by WNET.ORG President and CEO, Neal Shapiro, and WNET.ORG Vice President for Education, Ron Thorpe.

Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of WNET.ORG, and Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS

Kerger is a familiar face in the halls of WNET.ORG’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan. During her 13-year tenure with public television in New York, she held a series of leadership positions and was instrumental in overseeing the growth and diversification of THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and their many channels and services. In 2006, she was serving as WNET’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer when she was tapped to become the head of PBS in Washington. (more…)

Working with CUNY Students on National Parks: New Yorkers’ Memories

October 2nd, 2009

By Daniel T. Allen
Community Engagement Coordinator
Friends of Thirteen, Inc.

Watch National Parks: New Yorkers’ Memories

In 2007, as an intern for Friends of Thirteen, I was the first line of defense in screening the 1,500+ user generated war stories for our producer to use in a local companion to Ken Burns’ The War . From that experience I learned the ropes of “localizing” a national program and the potential for such projects to engage new communities.

So when WNET.ORG President Neal Shapiro asked Friends of Thirteen to help recruit college students to help produce a local program related to Burns’ latest, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, the answer was a resounding yes!

Film student Daniel Cowen hangs around on location in a Brooklyn rock climbing gym.

I first turned to Daniel Cowen, a Macaulay Honors Scholar (MHC) and film student at Hunter College here in Manhattan. He founded the CUNY Film Festival last year and works hard to cultivate the cross-campus CUNY film community.

Daniel introduced me to Andres F. Otero from Hunter College, an accomplished documentarian who has free-lanced for the NY Daily News and NY Post, and Davi Santos, another MHC Scholar who hosts a TV program at Lehman College in the Bronx.

At our first pre-production meeting with producer Cyndee Readdean and project researcher Michael Skocay, the students were charged with creating a pilot video that would illustrate how each National Parks interview would flow.

Making Local Connections: Friends of Thirteen, NAACP and Brooklyn students

August 21st, 2009

Jon Rubin of WNET.ORG speaks at Brooklyn Borough Hall, accompanied by Digit from Cyberchase,
Karen Boykin-Towns, president of the NAACP Brooklyn Branch, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

Inside THIRTEEN blogger:
Daniel T. Allen, Community Engagement Coordinator, Friends of Thirteen, Inc.

As New York City students get in their last licks of summer, the annual NAACP “Back to School/Stay in School” (BTS/SIS) event yesterday at Brooklyn Borough Hall hopefully made the end of vacation a little sweeter as 2,000 free backpacks filled with essential school supplies were distributed to disadvantaged students.

This year the NAACP Brooklyn Branch forged a partnership with WNET.ORG as a media sponsor and with Friends of Thirteen to help fill the backpacks with supplies from THIRTEEN’s children’s programs. But the idea for this partnership was not born in a board room, nor at a fundraiser, nor even as a conversation between professionals.

It was Memorial Day weekend when Karen Boykin-Towns, president of the NAACP Brooklyn Branch, began preparing this year’s “BTS/SIS” event. She had been thinking of companies to ask for donations. It was her daughter who had the idea: “Mom, why don’t you ask Thirteen? They have a lot of kids’ shows.”

Karen’s first call was to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who then connected Dorothy Pacella, Executive Director of Friends of Thirteen, with Karen.

From there it was a team effort. THIRTEEN’s education department donated Cyberchase pencils and other back-to-school goodies from Martha Speaks and Sid the Science Kid. Digit, one of the stars from Cyberchase, and Jon Rubin, director, state and local education services for WNET.ORG, were at the event to help celebrate the new school year and encourage kids to stay in school.

Finally, happy 100th anniversary to the NAACP. THIRTEEN looks forward to future collaborations that will advance the committment of both organizations to improving access to educational opportunities for children and adults of all backgrounds.

Watch Jon Rubin’s comments at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

The Friends of THIRTEEN: Preparing New York City for DTV

June 12th, 2009

by Daniel T. Allen
Community Engagement Coordinator
Friends of Thirteen

The Friends of THIRTEEN is a nonprofit organization of volunteers who act as liaisons between THIRTEEN and the community to: INCREASE engagement with the station’s quality programming; PROMOTE use of its innovative educational resources; and EXPAND support for public media as one of our nation’s great cultural resources. For more information about Friends please contact Executive Director Dorothy Pacella at 212.560.2800 or Pacella@thirteen.org.

It’s finally here. After literally years of preparation America finally faces the digital television transition. From the $350,000 advertisement for placed by the FCC on a NASCAR (that crashed twice) to the four month push-back of the date, it’s been a long strange trip.

Prof. Joan Fonseca of the Medgar Evers School of Business helps a local resident learn about the DTV switch.

In order to help the city prepare for “the big switch,” Friends of Thirteen have been working hard since last fall to connect seniors to information about DTV, train volunteers, and bring together community leaders across the five boroughs.

In September last year, Friends attended “Harlem Connects,” a conference to help Harlem’s seniors get connected. The conference hosted by the Harlem Consumer Education Council made it apparent that far too many people lacked crucial information about the conversion.

In October, we convened a “DTV community coalition” here at the station for community-based organizations, city officials, activists and educators to brainstorm strategies to raise community awareness about the transition. (more…)

Digital TV Transition: Senior Workshops

September 23rd, 2008

Inside Thirteen Blogger: Dan Allen, Friends of Thirteen Intern

Attendees watch on as a converter box is
connected to a television using “rabbit ears”

On September 17th, I traveled uptown with Dorothy Pacella, Executive Director, Friends of Thirteen, to represent Channel Thirteen at “Harlem Connects,” an educational conference to prepare Harlem’s seniors for the digital television transition in 2009. Studies show that seniors are most likely to be left behind on February 17th, 2009, when all analog TV signals cease. The Harlem Consumer Education Council, under the leadership of dedicated community activists Dennis Lane and Florence Rice, hosted the event at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. building on 125th Street.

As the day progressed, my eyes were opened to an array of issues surrounding the “big switch.” Barriers of age, language and cost are frequently overlooked obstacles when it comes to the digital transition. Even with a $40 coupon, a digital converter box is a still a serious financial concern for someone living on a fixed income.

Below: sample coupon; for real coupon, go to

Even if your household subscribes to cable, I urge you to spread the word and educate your parents, relatives, friends, co-workers or neighbors; someone you know who is not ready for February 17th. With 148 days to go, it’s important to be as proactive as Harlem’s seniors who have already held two forums about the digital transition. It’s a daunting task, but Friends of Thirteen is doing our best to make sure that no one misses out. Learn more about the digital transition here: https://www.dtv2009.gov/

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