ABC's signature morning program GMA was in the Rail City to broadcast live from SSHS, starting at 4 a.m. Wednesday after the school's video was named one of five national finalists for pop music icon Katy Perry's 'Roar' contest.
Good Morning America Producer Sarah Kunim didn't know what she was in for when she pulled up to Spanish Springs High just a couple hours after midnight.
"I had no idea. I did not know what to expect," Kunim said. "We had just days to plan a live event and we asked them to show some school spirit. They came out in full force. I'm proud of the kids for coming together ... I had heard whispers that people were planning to come, but then to show up at 2 a.m. and see this many kids excited to be on our show, it was more than I could've asked for."
Perry, in early September, asked schools from around the country to participate in a contest where they would make a parody video of her pop anthem 'Roar,' and its message of empowerment. Spanish Springs, which boasts the Washoe County School District's C3 media signature academy was up to the challenge. It's selection as a national finalist is proof of that.
Much of the school's 2,000-plus student body took part in the two and a half minute video either through acting, choreography or production. And a huge chunk of them were at Spanish Springs for Good Morning America's Wednesday taping.
"The community rallied. This turnout is incredible, especially for so early in the morning" SSHS athletic director Art Anderson said, while wiping his tired eyes around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday. "I think the kids grabbed as much purple as they had. They're just so excited about this event. The possibility of winning has really ignited the pride in our school."
Perry is set to announce the national winner later this month and will perform a live concert at the winning school.
Spanish Springs' fifth-year principal Tasha Fuson has seen a few of the other finalists, including some tough competition from Lakewood High in suburban Denver and Verrado High in suburban Phoenix. She may be biased but she thinks her school's submission has a real chance at winning the contest.
"This is just our second year with the signature media program and to put something together like this is a great statement for our program," Fushon said. "The quality of our video and the concept from beginning to end are so professionally done ... My personal opinion is the quality of our video is outstanding. Some of the others had good storylines, but the quality of ours from storyline to production was extraordinary.
"Just look at the talent of our kids. Sometimes, people downplay the ability of our kids. This shows the future and it's bright."
GMA has been broadcasting live from a finalist school each day this week. Kunim, who is based in New York, also produced the broadcast Monday at Verrado High in Buckeye, Ariz. She told students and Cougars fans in attendance Wednesday morning that the atmosphere and turnout at SSHS was the most impressive to date this week.
Kunim admitted it would have been hard to predict what kind of response Perry and GMA would get, but she said it's been overwhelmingly positive and she praised the efforts of the Spanish Springs students.
"You never really know what to expect from high school kids producing a video," she said. "The Spanish Springs video was so inspired. It was amazing to see everyone come together."
Mike Bowers, a broadcast journalism instructor at Spanish Springs, oversaw the video project. He said his class tries to find a video contest to enter at least every three weeks. He said some of his students approached him about entering this contest and the decision to put a video project together was a no-brainer.
So what makes the school's video so popular and unique"
"It's the story line," Bowers said. "It resonates with high school girls. One of my students said to me that high school is like a jungle. It's hard to get through. The video is about overcoming the typical high school challenges and girl empowerment."
The student turnout for the event, roughly half the Spanish Springs enrollment, was impressive considering the middle-of-the-night start. While it surprised some, for many students it was no shock at all, more of an afterthought.
"None of us slept," said an excited SSHS senior Alex Moreno. "It's a really cool feeling. I'll be struggling to get through the day, but this is good Morning America at Spanish Springs. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's worth it."
The day does not come without challenges. Spanish Springs students are taking midterms this week. How many studied for Wednesday's exams and how many will be rested enough to concentrate and perform remains unclear. Still, everyone at Spanish Springs seemed to be taking the challenges in stride when the sun rose Wednesday, instead focusing on the positives of the unique environment brought on by a positive message in a video.
"The biggest take-away for me is even if we don't win, the kids got the knowledge and saw how their hard work and efforts can pay off," Fuson said. "You can get everyone to come together. It's overwhelming and makes me proud to be the principal of this school.
You can see the video at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5pnOHxCytY.