Lakewood teachers describe the Katy Perry experience

Katy Perry, in Lakewood cheerleader attire, sings for Lakewood High students in a private performance, Oct. 25.

Katy Perry, in cheerleader attire, sings for Lakewood High students in a private performance, Oct. 25. (Concert photos from Lakewood H.S.)

One of the world’s top pop entertainers performed in Colorado, Oct. 25, but only the students and faculty of Lakewood High School could get in door. Which was fitting, because Katy Perry gave her concert in their high school gym.

Understanding how Lakewood High won a national concert to get a private Katy Perry concert starts with an explanation of a ‘lip-dub’ video.

“I’ll be honest, I was like, ‘What is a lip-dub?’ said Laura Zlogar, a physical education teacher at Lakewood High. “Is that like lip-sync back in the 80’s that I can remember?”

Laura and fellow teacher Tami LoSasso of the theater department now know first-hand what goes into making a lip-dub video.

“A lip-dub is a continuous shot,” Tami explained. “The camera takes a walk through whatever has been staged and the whole thing is done in one continuous shot. It does incorporate that idea of the 80’s lip-sync, but there’s no editing. It’s just all one walk-through.”

A lip-dub video came immediately to mind for Lakewood students when Katy Perry put out a national challenge on Good Morning America to find the high school that could give the best roar – Roar being the name of Katy’s latest hit single. First, Lakewood had the right mascot to showcase for the song’s chorus.

“Tiger – it was all Tiger, and it was a great song just to show spirit,” said Gwen Ahlers, drawing and painting teacher. “So we found a connection right away.”

Second, Lakewood students had made a lip-dub video a few years back to Katy’s hit Firework.

“The Good Morning America contest video didn’t need to necessarily be a lip-dub, but we figured hey, we have experience at this. It works perfectly with our school mascot. Let’s give it another shot,” said Tami.

The Bridge Club's card deck and bare-chested tiger student is one of many Roar highlights.

The Bridge Club’s card deck and bare-chested tiger student is one of many Lakewood Roar video highlights.

For three days, the school used 20 minutes of non-instructional homeroom time to plan and produce the Lakewood Roar video (watch at http://bit.ly/1gqxDWi). A planning team mapped out a course, placing nearly every athletic team, club and student group in the school along the route. Tami, Gwen and Laura, all members of JeffCo Education Association, helped students in orchestrating their few seconds in the spotlight when the camera rolled by.

“There were quick meetings – let’s plan your space, plan what you want to do, practice your portion of the song,” said Gwen, who worked with the art club.

Tami’s most difficult challenge was getting a commitment from her theater students to be in place when the camera arrived. “There are kids involved in so many different activities – ‘I want to do theater, then I want to run to choir, and after choir…’ – and so my responsibility was making sure we had enough kids for our shot.”

Laura’s ‘unified physical education’ group, an adaptive P.E. class for special needs students, appeared early in the video. Her student coaches were then off to the races to catch the camera again. “They were running across the hall, trying to get to another spot to get to the baseball team, or some of the girls with the tennis team. Almost all of the students had two or more groups, clubs, or teams that they wanted to be with in the video.”

With students on the run making multiple appearances throughout the campus, Lakewood’s Roar video gives the impression the school has double or triple the 2,000-plus students and staff who participated. “The ending shot is really the best indication of the amount of kids we have, because that’s where they all ran, from their groups into that big collaboration on the football field at the end,” said Tami.

“It was like Christmas Day, ants in their pants, couldn’t sit still,” Laura said of her adaptive P.E. class on recording day. “We didn’t want them to settle down – it was really cool, such a neat thing to be a part of. We tried to run around and do as much as we could to burn off some of that energy, but it was a really fun day. And it was okay to be excited and be a little squirrely.”

“And there was a lot of positive energy that you don’t always see in schools,” Tami added, noting the expectations and higher stakes of today’s school structure can weigh students down. “So just to have the opportunity for positive energy to fuel the building, I think the teachers welcomed that openly and tried to carry that positive vibe throughout the rest of the semester. We’re kind of coasting with that right now.”

Gwen Ahlers, Lakewood drawing & painting teacher

Gwen Ahlers, Lakewood drawing & painting teacher

“The kids here are awesome, teachers are awesome. It would not have worked without administration, the community, teachers, the entire staff, and students. They all pulled together,” said Gwen. “You can tell by the lip-dub, it’s amazing. It couldn’t have happened with just a few kids or a few people, it was the whole, entire school.”

Katy watched hundreds of videos from schools across America and Lakewood made her list of five finalists. The students packed the Lakewood gym in the early morning hours of Oct. 18 to watch Katy announce the winner live on Good Morning America. She chose Lakewood.

“Of course the gym just erupted and the kids went nuts,” said Laura.

“Oh my goodness,” said Gwen. “Kids were texting, moms were texting kids, congratulations from aunts, uncles, grandparents. In the community, businesses were just so excited for Lakewood. As a community, this is a pretty neat deal.”

Lakewood and its high school were suddenly famous. The Roar lip-dub has more than 425,000 views on YouTube. Lakewood High appeared on live national TV and in media reports across the country. And when Katy Perry tweets about you, she reaches 47 million followers.

What to do with their ’15 minutes of fame’ was a heavy question for the student body and Principal Ron Castagna. The answer: a charity campaign dubbed “One World, One Roar” in which Lakewood students challenged high schools across America to raise $1,000 for charity.

Lakewood teachers Tami LoSasso and Laura Zlogar show off the school's "One World, One Roar" t-shirts.

Lakewood teachers Tami LoSasso and Laura Zlogar show off the school’s “One World, One Roar” t-shirts.

“I think what the principal has done is used the Katy Perry experience as a springboard for a larger message, in that we as adults need to teach students to be a part of a community,” said Tami.

Lakewood trademarked the phrase “One World, One Roar” and built a website to track progress of reported charity fundraising. As of mid-November, the campaign has topped $36,000. Lakewood and other Colorado schools have given their donations to Colorado flood relief.

“I guess it’s catching on. We’re getting some feedback,” said Gwen, with calls coming in to Lakewood from school districts in other states. “The kids were very inspiring. Maybe it’s just a switch where kids are thinking beyond their school and what they can do in their own community. The kids feel really empowered to reach out and do more.”

“What I would like to see is for that sort of ideal to really permeate beyond this year, to really get students fully engaged in their communities,” said Tami, who noted her theater students donated $1,000 they had raised at an earlier event. “In a selfish world, we still need to perform selfless acts to be a community. And getting kids to understand that is what ‘One World, One Roar’ hopes to achieve.”

Katy Perry received a Lakewood jacket and tiger-themed cake for her birthday concert.

Katy Perry received a Lakewood jacket and tiger-themed cake for her birthday concert.

United in black and orange “One World, One Roar” t-shirts, the students filed back into the gym starting at 3:30 a.m., Oct. 25, for the concert. Katy, wearing a Lakewood cheerleading uniform for the occasion, just happened to be celebrating a birthday.

“I’m 29. I feel great,” Perry said to the students and staff. “I still feel like I’m 13 sometimes. Obviously you can tell by my music and my spirit. I’m so excited about this record and I just love all the participation and the unification …of all of you guys coming together and roaring!”

“Katy Perry did a great job. She was very professional, she treated the kids with respect, and they treated her with respect,” said Gwen. “It was exciting to have a concert and have her there for the kids.”

“She spoke their language, for lack of a better word,” added Tami. “And she was really respectful to the administration. She came across as a class act.”

In the days after the concert, Laura noticed a different attitude and a sense of camaraderie in everybody.

“In Lakewood, we’ve always kind of had that, but it seems even more so, kids just outgoing, looking for ways to help. Kids have that sense of, ‘What can I do to help you.’ It’s great, it’s really nice,” said Laura.

“As teachers, it’s been an interesting journey. Finding ways to channel the energy has been a new and exciting challenge,” Tami added. “To have kids who are enthusiastic, willing to take on whatever in the classroom just because they have this sense of something bigger, was a nice addition to the past couple of weeks.”

students web

Katy Perry leads a Roar! with special needs students at Lakewood High.

Laura said the sense of community is particularly high with her special needs students, who don’t always feel so appreciated.

“They’re feeling embraced a lot within the community in the school, which hasn’t happened for a while,” said Laura. “But they certainly feel a part of the experience, that they have a piece in this too.

“There’s an attitude now that this was much bigger than getting a Katy Perry concert. It’s ‘how can we do more?’ and looking at the bigger picture,” Laura continued. “The special needs kids are starting to see that too. There’s an awareness of, ‘maybe there’s some disadvantages here, but there are ways I can help somebody else.’ And it’s been a huge education piece for us to talk about something and just take it to a different level, a bigger scale with a lot of these kids. It’s been a great learning experience for them.”

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