For East Valley senior Robert Champagne, connecting with others is a naturally effortless endeavor, but it’s one he’s poured his energy into regardless.
“If he’s passionate about something, he goes overboard on it,” said his mother, Shelley. “When he’s talking about something, he puts everything into it.”
And if there’s one thing Champagne is passionate about, it’s film – a medium he’s learned to harness in a way that meshes his creativity with any sort of communication need for the school.
Take, for example, Champagne’s “Weekly Week” series, which serve as part-weekly announcement and part-comic relief for the student body. He wrote all the scripts himself and edits the videos, which juxtapose school announcements with humorous situations such as a “Freaky Friday”-esque body swap with his co-host or a time loop that wreaks havoc on set.
And any time the school had a need for a video – an explainer, content for an event or assembly, even a freshman orientation – he was the one teachers called, and he never disappointed.
“He’s become kind of a face of information here,” said his leadership advisor, Kelli Hennessey. “Everybody knows who he is because they’ve seen him, and he’s just super down to earth. He’s just easy to talk to.
“Students love the things he does. Teachers love the things he does. We have all been able to sort of come together over these things Robbie has done.”
But if you ask him, he’s just grateful for the opportunity and that they have yet to ask him to cut a joke from the final product. Film, after all, is the way he sees the world.
“I was always kind of introverted, and watching movies kind of became a way to see the world through a different lens and to kind of connect with people,” he said. “And the older I got, I started to see more stuff and I started to relate that to the world around me, and it’s almost become like a second language for me … I think as a result of kind of getting into this, I’ve learned to understand people in the world better.”
He was voted ASB secretary coming into his senior year, and he says the exposure to a leadership role has emboldened him in a way he couldn’t have foreseen. It also taught him the value of cooperation, something no good movie or show can exist without.
“I didn’t come in as a leader, and I think that’s a really important skill that I’ve learned just having a high school experience,” Champagne said. “You don’t actively seek that out. It’s just something that you fall into and that you learn. And I think it helped me grow as a person.”
He’s also grown as a communicator, in more ways than one.
His parents and teachers say he’s also a gifted writer – he won the English department’s creative writing award this year for his contributions to the school’s literary journal as well as his “Weekly Week” scripts, and he’s always working on a variety of his ideas for films, fleshing out scripts and concepts he hopes to come back to when he has the resources to make them a reality.
Debate was a strength of his, allowing him to use his rhetorical skills in a setting that paired them with the ideas he is passionate about.
“He’s never cared what anyone thinks,” Shelley said. “He does what he believes in and doesn’t back down.”
Champagne is headed to Montana State University in the fall to study film at a program that ranks among the top 50 of its kind in the West with the goal of continuing to hone his craft while working toward becoming a director. That’s a bold undertaking for most 18-year-olds, but those who know him believe in it just as much as he does. They’ve seen his abilities firsthand.
Hennessey said she made him promise to mention her in his speech if he wins an award for his work at some point, to which he agreed. “It doesn’t have to be like an Oscar speech,” she said, just a little shoutout.
“And the thing is, I can totally see him doing that,” she added. “I absolutely feel like he’s a kid I’m going to hear about again.”
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