Madeleine Parrish Arizona Republic | USA TODAY NETWORK
America’s best high school radio station is in Mesa.
The East Valley Institute of Technology’s 88.7 The Pulse won best high school radio station at the 2022-23 John Drury award ceremony in November, hosted by North Central College in Illinois.
Winning that honor felt “amazing,” said Nick Shultz, 17. “Like all the hard work we were putting in the last year paid off.”
Nick hosts an hourlong live show every weekday with his friend Eden Selman. On a Thursday in November, during breaks between songs, they talked on air about Taylor Swift being the most streamed artist of 2023, Travis Scott’s most recent album and how they want more grunge on the station.
“The Cure has kind of been a staple for my whole high school experience,” Eden, 17, told listeners after a song by the band played. She and Nick shifted seamlessly into a conversation about the year’s top charting artists before Nick led listeners into the next song: “We’ll throw it back to the ’80s here. We’ve got ‘Whip It’ by Devo on 88.7 The Pulse.”
The station is part of EVIT’s twoyear- long radio and audio production program for high school juniors and seniors. About 77 students from across the East Valley attend the career and technical education program every day for half the school day.
The radio station has been part of the program since 2011 and became 88.7 FM in 2015. It’s a licensed, noncommercial, 15,000-watt station that can be heard over the airwaves in the metro Phoenix area or streamed online at 887thepulse. com. In addition to winning best high school radio station, EVIT brought home three more John Drury awards for the 2022-23 school year: best newscast, best sportscast and best news feature story, the most awards out of the 18 high schools in the competition, according to a news release from North Central College.
The program’s goal is for students to be employable when they leave, said Michael Mallace, the station’s general manager.
“Everything that they learn here is transferable into the industry,” he said. “From the strategy behind what music we play, to producing underwriting messages, to doing the production on the radio station … everything is done by students.”
Dave Juday, who teaches radio production, said he tells students to soak up everything they learn about radio, music and audio production in the program.
“It does make you more versatile, and you never know which one of those skills you’ve acquired is going to lead to your first job,” Juday said, describing what he tells his students.
The instructors have an industry background — Juday formerly worked as an anchor for ESPN 1000 Chicago, and Mallace has worked for commercial radio stations in the Valley. They treat 88.7 like a commercial radio station, Mallace said, with the same standards for the students they had at professional stations.
Assignments turn into content for the station. As fall and winter holidays approach, students create messages to play on air: safety tips for Halloween, advice on what to do (or not to do) with leftovers for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, students created 30-second informational introductions for holiday songs for a series called “Holiday Songs You Should Know.” The messages help the station sound “topical and relevant for our listeners,” Mallace said.
For Adam Beadle, the program has “never really ever felt like school,” he said. Adam, who is planning to attend Arizona State University to study sports journalism, co-hosts a sports talk show. The station also broadcasts high school sports games in the East Valley.
“I get to come in here and do my dream job every single day, and I’m only 17 years old,” Adam said.
He and Jason Richey, 17, co-hosts of the “Pulse Sports Connection” talk show, secured media credentials to cover Phoenix Suns and ASU games, an initiative they led on their own, according to Juday.
“I think a lot of it is just learning how to be professional from an early age, how the industry works,” Adam said.
Opportunities at a young age: ‘Such a cool feeling’
On the day The Arizona Republic visited, Maddie Hadley’s hourlong live show featured songs from a range of artists, including Led Zeppelin, Jelly Roll, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Rusted Root.
Maddie, 17, had her sights set on EVIT’s cosmetology program but was swayed after a tour of the radio and audio production program’s state-of-theart facilities. She was more interested in the music portion of the program, initially wanting to write her own songs.
“Then, the first day I got here, I saw the station,” she said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is really cool.’ ” Now, she wants to pursue a career in radio or broadcast.
“I want to make this my whole career,” she said. “Anything along the lines of being in front of a camera or in front of a mic, I want to do that.”
She loves storytelling on her live show, called “Middays with Maddie” because of its 1 p.m. time slot. As “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin played, Maddie considered what to talk about during her next break. Though she prepares for the show, she likes to “wing it,” she said.
Ultimately, she decided to tell a story about asking her math teacher for help with a difficult lesson.
“So, if you’re struggling with something, it’s okay to ask for help,” she told her listeners. “Let’s keep the music rolling. Here’s the Rolling Stones.”
Maddie said the opportunities students get at such a young age make the program unique.
“The fact that I was only 16 years old, already on … a legally licensed radio station, and my grandparents were hearing me all the way in Washington … that is such a cool feeling,” she said.
Reach the reporter at mparrish@arizonarepublic. com.
“I want to make this my whole career.”