The local teenage cast and crew of Santa Barbara Teen News Network (sbTNN) just finished its third full season with an inspiring finale that may be the nonprofit program’s last.
The special two-part episode is airing on TV Santa Barbara Channel 71 daily at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. through Monday, June 18, and online at Noozhawk.com and at sbTNN.com. The nonprofit Patricia Henley Foundation is also putting out a call for financial sponsorship to ensure the free program for local teens will be able to continue in the fall.
The season three finale revisits the locations of many of the best-of stories from seasons one through three, and concludes with a tribute to founder and activist Patricia Henley, including footage from a speech to students and an interview from her hospital bed shortly before her death from lung cancer in 2009.
Highlights of the episode include:
» Best-of clips from seasons one through three, including coverage of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Teen Star competition and the Earth Day Festival, with cast member commentary and other behind-the-scenes details.
» Tour on Santa Barbara Trolley, revisiting favorite sbTNN spots with highlights from past concerts, local performing arts and other special events.
» Behind-the-scenes sneak peak and look at the professional “green-screen” production technique.
» Recognition of graduating seniors, sbTNN cast members Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer.
» Tribute to sbTNN founder Patricia Henley.
In 1997, Henley did something that few people could find the courage or stamina to do — she sued giant corporation Philip Morris. Following a diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer, the 35-year smoker went after the big tobacco company for the “sake of the children.” She wanted to make a difference in the lives of the youngsters not yet hooked on smoking by exposing the big tobacco industry lies directed toward youth. Her award from the lawsuit allowed her to create the Patricia Henley Foundation, the primary funder of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network.
From the stage at Center Stage Theater in 2009, Henley told an audience of students, “I’m lucky to be here, I’m lucky to see this. You have no idea what a thrill it’s given me to be a little tiny part of your lives.”
From her hospital bed, Henley shared her passion for bringing the community together around creating this unique opportunity for local youth.
“I want our donors to be a part of this and grow with this,” she said. “To have their name out there knowing that they helped a child. Children are what it’s all about. What will we have tomorrow if we don’t have our children?”
The Santa Barbara Teen News Network is provided free of charge each season, allowing local teens to participate in the program regardless of their family’s ability to pay. Originally funded by the endowment from Henley, the program now relies on donations and sponsorships from local business and individuals.
sbTNN cast members come from diverse backgrounds, but when they’re in the studio, their individual voices shine through as they build friendships, confidence and leadership skills to help them flourish through the teen years and beyond.
“We can’t thank our past sponsors, supporters and this season’s ‘angel donors’ enough us to help so many local teens prepare for success,” said Trixie Geyer, associate director for the Patricia Henley Foundation. “Not only do our participants directly benefit, but the program also benefits all of our community’s youth. sbTNN covers the accomplishments of other local youth in performing arts and community projects, and teens also get a glimpse into potential careers through our coverage of successful local businesses, nonprofits and opportunities for positive involvement.”
Last December, several companies and donors rallied to keep the program running through the season three. sbTNN is currently funded through its six-week summer session, starting in July, but must raise close to $200,000 for next season’s program, while long-term funding strategies are being put into place.
“It’s not just important to us, but to the community who want our future to be brighter by having our kids stay out of trouble and following their passion and dreams,” said Andrew Gutierrez, sbTNN cast member and Santa Barbara High School student. “That’s really what Patricia Henley was all about.”
sbTNN is made possible thanks to community supporters, including support from TV Santa Barbara (formerly Santa Barbara Channels). The student reporters rehearse and tape live on Saturdays in the TV Santa Barbara Channel 17 and Channel 71 (formerly Channel 21) studios.
“Without an angel donor, sbTNN will not be able to continue,” Gutierrez said.
sbTNN is seeking individual and business sponsors to keep the program available and free of charge to students. Call 805.568.3600 x114 for more information.
— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing the Santa Barbara Teen News Network.