MESQUITE (KRLD-AM) – Mesquite ISD is training the broadcast professionals of tomorrow at its district-owned, student-run radio station, KEOM.

KEOM first took the air in September of 1984 at 88.3 on the FM dial, boasting a power of 3000 watts. Eight years later, it moved up one notch to 88.5 and became a 61,000-watt blowtorch. Playing hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s, the station can be heard throughout the entire Metroplex and beyond.

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Nearly every facet of the station’s operation — scheduling music, song announcements, station promos, news, traffic and weather — are handled by students at any one of the five Mesquite ISD high schools.

Station manager Peggy Brooks says KEOM is part of a two-year comprehensive broadcasting curriculum, and all of the station’s equipment is state of the art.

“We do still have some of the old reel-to-reel machines and the old cart machines, but we’re not using those,” says Brooks. “But when we’re teaching the history of broadcast, it’s very good to see that in person as opposed to seeing a picture in a book.”

The advanced broadcast journalism program, as it’s called by the district, has two full-time teachers and is open to juniors and seniors. Jonathan Craig, a junior at Poteet High School, quickly learned that the program entailed a lot more than just sitting in a fancy studio and talking into a microphone.

“I didn’t know that we would be going through and learning the FCC rules and getting a Society of Broadcast Engineers radio operator license and things like that,” says Craig, 17.

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Terall Miller, a senior at John Horn High School, was fascinated to learn exactly what it takes to operate a radio station.

“We hear radio all the time in our cars, and we never realize how much goes into it,” says Miller, 18, who will be attending Texas Tech in the fall. “They have a station manager, a station operator, a chief engineer — there are so many people working to collaborate to make this radio station work.”

Rachel Williams, who’s also a senior at John Horn High School, says the program gives her a very beneficial head start.

“It gives me motivation and confidence that I’ll do well in radio and television,” says Williams, 17, who will be attending the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith in the fall.

In fact, about 35 percent of students who go through the KEOM program eventually land careers in broadcasting. And perhaps one day, you could hear a KEOM graduate on KRLD.

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“These kids are hirable at a very young age, and that’s hugely valuable to us,” says Iris Bekker, KRLD managing editor.