Ten years and counting. Two hundred and fifty episodes and counting.

Orenco Elementary School’s Orca Live! student-run television broadcast celebrated 10 years last week with cake, a special 20-minute school-wide broadcast and a room packed full of a decade of Orca Live! alumni.

Started in November 2004, Orca Live! is Orenco’s bi-weekly in-school television broadcast. Back in 2004, there were two advisors — teachers Mike Futter and Tom Bunker. The two men help fifth- and sixth-grade students design, produce and broadcast a bi-weekly television report of happenings around the school. Back then, there was one microphone for the anchors to pass around and very basic equipment; overall a fairly low-tech production, said HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - High school students who were crew members for Orca Live! when they were students at Orenco Elementary School sign off at the end of the anniversary broadcast.

One thing Bunker, Futter and their students did have, however, was enthusiasm. And that enthusiasm has snowballed over the years.

“This is a powerful community builder,” Bunker said of Orca Live! Bunker has since retired from teaching, but volunteers regularly to help put together the broadcasts.

“All the kids in the school participate in some way,” he said. “Students can see (what goes on) at all the different classroom levels.”

Every grade level appears on the broadcast a few times a year.

The studio itself has seen some upgrades over the years as well, thanks to grants and gifts from the likes of Nike, Synopsis, Intel and the Hillsboro Schools Foundation.

“The best part is working with so many fantastic kids,” said Futter, who teaches a 5/6 blended class. “They take ownership of and pride in the show, and they have done amazing things.”

Futter said some of his favorite moments over the years have been “when we give the kids something to do that would seem daunting (like singing on-air), and they go all in with loads of enthusiasm.”

In addition to reporting on school activities, the kids like to get a little goofy sometimes, filming fake commercials and mini-dramas.

“In each case, a group of kids has devoted a lot of after-school time to make it happen.  We all have a blast, and the kids bond over it. They’re always a lot of fun,” Futter said.

Bunker said he’s seen crew members find new levels of confidence in themselves.

“The crew recognizes there are no do-overs. It’s live. They learn responsibility, hard work and have fun working with a team.”Over the years, 168 students have been on the Orca Live! crew in some capacity, including 20 sets of siblings. Several dozen of those students showed up last week to help with the anniversary broadcast, including students now in middle school, high school and even one who has graduated from high school.

“Some of them can shave. And they drove themselves here,” said Aron Carleson, executive director of Hillsboro Schools Foundation, who was there to watch the broadcast.

Mat Smith, a 2012 Liberty High School graduate, took the morning off his job as a heating and cooling technician to be a part of the festivities.

“I felt like it taught me responsibility,” he recalled of his time on the crew.

After wrapping up the anniversary show, Bunker and Futter looked around the room at their current and former crew members.

“Today was the best of all,” Futter mused. “All those kids coming back for the show? The best.”

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