Friday, November 15, 2013

Windham students compete on Kick Start - By Elizabeth Richards

On the current season of Kick Start, a game show for eighth graders that airs on WPXT, seven of the 27 contestants are from Windham schools. Any eighth grader in the state of Maine can audition for the show, and this year, many of those kids came from the Windham area. During the auditions, kids are asked about themselves to be sure they are comfortable on set and in front of a camera, said Megan Littlefield, who is the promotions coordinator for WPXT, and one of the executive producers of Kick Start. “All the Windham kids have been great,” she said.
The show has 13 episodes per season. The winner of each of the first nine episodes moves on to a semi-final show, and the three semi-final winners compete in the finals. The winner of the final round receives a $2,500 NextGen College Investment Plan. 

Kick Start is split into three sections. The first, The Speed Splat Throwdown, has contestants competing for points by buzzing in to answer as many of the questions as they can in three minutes. The Buildy Thing incorporates some kind of physical challenge with contestants creating something within a specific time frame. The final section, the Slop Drop Showdown, has all competitors answering true/false or multiple choice questions at the same time to compete for points. Contestants who answer three of these questions incorrectly end up doused in slime.

Littlefield says the station produces the show because they want to be involved in communities and help encourage kids to start thinking about college at an early age. All eighth graders in the state are invited to audition. Though they try to put on as many kids who audition as they can, Littlefield says, “It turns out a lot of eighth graders are very nervous to get in front of camera.” The show will be filming again in the spring, so current eighth graders who wish to get involved can audition for that season. 

Windham Middle School had five students on the show this season: Wyatt Yost, Matthew Kluchnik, Graham Giroux, Jaren Preston and Glenn O’Brien. Two students from Windham Christian Academy, Anna Blaschke and Corban Ridlon, also appeared this season. 

When asked why they decided to audition, many of the students who were on this season said they had known people – a relative or a friend – who had been on the show in previous years. Others heard about it on Q97.9, whose morning show host Jeff Parsons is also the Kick Start host. “I thought it would be really cool to be on a TV show,” said Ridlon. 

Preston, whose brother had been on the show, said he’d been thinking about it for a while. “It was fun to watch and looked like an enjoyable experience,” he said.

The students had positive things to say about the experience, and said they enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in the show. “The best thing about it is all my friends and family, everyone I knew wanted to watch it, and even those I didn’t know. I felt like a totally celebrity,” said Giroux. 

Kluchnik was interested in the technical aspects of the show, and he said that seeing the set design was what he enjoyed most. “That was really cool,” he said. The experience was a good one overall, he said.
Yost, who was the winner on his episode, said “It was one of the best experiences of my life.” His semi-final episode will air on December 12th.

The Buildy Thing was the most talked about among participants. For some it was their favorite part, while others found it to be the most challenging aspect of the show. “I liked the buildy thing. We had to build foam noodles on your fingers. It was fun, but it was scary,” said Ridlon.
Giroux was tied for points with another contestant moving into the buildy thing. His challenge was to build a cookie tower without using his hands, which he said he was surprisingly good at. He left that round in the lead, but ended up getting slimed in the final round.

Blaschke said she enjoyed trying to build a boat. “It didn’t work out too well, but it was fun trying,” she said. She also said she found the boat building to be the hardest part for her. Many of the questions, she said, were fairly easy. 

Ridlon, on the other hand, said she thought the final round questions were the hardest part. For Yost, the most challenging was the speed round because answers had to come immediately.
Many of the students who were slimed said it was not fun. “I used to watch Nickelodeon shows and thought it would be really cool to get slimed, but it’s not,” said Ridlon. 

Blaschke agreed. “The slime was nasty,” she said. 

But Yost had a different opinion. “I loved the slime,” he said. “It was just really fun.”

Some participants said the show helped them gain some important insights into themselves. “It made me feel a little more – upbeat with life,” said Giroux. He said he felt he’d been more negative than usual for a while before the show, participating gave him a better outlook. “Because I lost and just dealt with that. It made me learn that sometimes you’ve got to lose, and sometimes you’re going to win,” he said.

Blaschke, who came in second on her episode, said she learned a few things as well. “It’s a lot easier to go in front of people than it was before,” she said.

And some other skills were developed as well. “I’m better at making structures out of spaghetti and marshmallows,” quipped Yost.

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