Ursuline students ‘drive’ the bus as C-SPAN visits campus

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
Related Articles: 

With a $1.25-million custom tour bus at their disposal, the three Ursuline Academy seniors seized the opportunity, doing what others might do in a similar circumstance.

Each took a turn behind the wheel, sliding into the driver's seat, posing for pictures and acting as though they were touring the countryside.

"These are probably the first girls who have done that in a while," driver Terence Bilal said, with a laugh. "Usually, I don't allow that because they start pushing buttons. But they're winners; I'll let them do it."

After letting the students have their fun, Bilal showed them a special memento of his driving — a photo of himself with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

"That is legendary," Casey Doherty said. "That is so cool."

The bus’s two-hour stop April 18 at Ursuline highlighted the honors for Doherty, Katherine Cassani and Grace Feund, who received honorable-mention recognition among 150 winners in the C-SPAN StudentCam competition, with a video titled, “Education Reform.” They received a cash prize, award certificates, a school assembly and the visit from C-SPAN’s “Road to the White House Tour” bus, colorfully wrapped in red, white and blue.

The trio preceded classmates for a tour of the bus, which has crisscrossed the country to visit winners' schools. The bus has been on the road since early March and will remain so until the end of the school year.

"It's like a double win; they win StudentCam and then they get the bus to come to their community," said Bilal, who had been to Las Vegas, Denver, Rapid City and Sioux Falls, S.D., and Minnesota in the previous seven days. After the stop at Ursuline, Bilal and C-SPAN representatives Pam McGorry and Chellie Zou headed to Fort Payne, Alabama — a seven-hour, 470-mile trip.

The bus features touch-screen laptops detailing the mission of C-SPAN to provide "the unvarnished truth of politics," as Charter Cable's Neal Gib told the assembly. Cable companies fund C-SPAN, with about 7 cents from each subscriber's monthly cable bill. C-SPAN receives no government funding and has no advertisers, thus remaining independent and unbiased in covering the House of Representatives, the Senate and politics in general on its networks, internet and mobile platforms.

The bus also has a big-screen monitor, likewise a touchscreen, in a plush seating area at the back. Of course, the monitor featured the Ursuline trio's winning video. In the video, Doherty, Cassani and Feund called on presidential candidates this year to focus on education reform, primarily by emphasizing the teaching of divergent thinking — i.e. critical thinking, problem solving and learning to learn, as it were — over convergent thinking, which is teaching students merely for favorable test scores.

Although the video was the final project for Tracy Nondorf's AP Government and Politics class, the three picked the topic based on their experience in an AP psychology class.

"We learned how people think and learn," Doherty explained. "Then, it became a question of why didn't it match up with the education system that is in place in our country. ... Why doesn't (the education system) align with how people learn?"

Catholic education specializes in teaching divergent thinking, as demonstrated by the students with the video. The trio drew from two classes for the topic, then used video skills with interviews, footage of multiple sites and charts, plus created voiceovers and included sections with their commentary.

They spent eight weeks on the project, the entire second quarter. With four Nondorf government classes assigned the project, Ursuline alone submitted about 60 entries among the record 2,887 entries received by C-SPAN, which judged the lot in several rounds over many weeks.

C-SPAN's McGorry, who helped judge the competition, praised the Ursuline winners for their creativity and effort over several months. "We value that," she said.

The honor caught Cassani, Doherty and Feund by surprise, though — albeit a pleasant one. They joked in production that "no one's gonna see it anyway but Ms. Nondorf," Cassani said, noting that now the "entire alumnae has seen it, the whole school ... and the world, too."

Links to all winners are on the C-SPAN website.

After pictures and platitudes, Doherty summarized the bus, simply, as "very cool." 


To view the video “Education Reform” by Ursuline Academy students Katherine Cassani, Casey Doherty and Grace Feund, visit www.stlouisreview.com/biZ

Links to all winners are at www.stlouisreview.com/bcu

No votes yet