Green Bank Elementary-Middle School kicked off its after-school program, Project SPLASH, last week with guest speaker, host and creator of Fly Rod Chronicles Curtis Fleming.
A native of West Virginia, Fleming earned a master’s degree from Fairmont State College [now University], and taught for several years before creating his show, which airs on The Outdoor Channel, Wild TV and the World Fishing Network.
Fleming discussed his personal experiences as a student and explained that if it hadn’t been for a special teacher who worked with him after school, he probably wouldn’t be where he is today.
“My middle school teacher became my best friend,” Fleming said. “[He] ran an outdoor program. He would come and pick me up, and he would take me fishing and hunting. You think sometimes you get mad at teachers? Well, Mr. Lionetti wasn’t only my favorite teacher, he became my favorite coach. He was the reason I went on to college.”
Fleming’s father was a coalminer and wasn’t able to spend a lot of time with his son. When he did have time off from the mine, the two went hunting and fishing.
Lionetti and his father both instilled in Fleming the importance of getting an education.
“He and my father took me into the coal mines and spent an entire eight hours in the coal mines,” Fleming said. “I really quickly learned I did not want to be a coalminer, and I enrolled in college the very next day.”
In college, Fleming met his wife, Michelle “Shelly,” who is his life partner, as well as business partner.
He said he met his match when, on their first date, he decided to take her hunting, and she didn’t run for the hills.
“I told her to pick the day and she said Saturday, so I said, ‘perfect, be ready at 5:30 in the morning, that’s the first day of squirrel season,’” Fleming recalled. “She looked at me and she said, ‘do I use a 20 gauge or a 12 gauge, and I asked her if she’d marry me.”
While school was difficult for Fleming, he stuck it out and received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree.
“I had to go into college on something that’s called academic probation,” he said. “That’s not good. You don’t want that to happen. I was a tough learner. I had a hard, difficult time staying focused in class. I started paying for my college, and I instantly became a good student because it was something that I wanted.”
Fleming said a lot of people asked him why he didn’t just quit school and start his fishing show right then since school was so hard for him.
“That would have never worked,” he explained. “[School] took me through that path. I was a teacher for fifteen years. I worked in a residential school. I found out that I really loved fly fishing by taking my students fishing. It’s what got me into doing the show – I loved being around kids, and I loved showing people about fishing.
“So, keep in mind, staying in school, listening to your teachers, all that is what it takes to be successful in life,” he continued.
When Fleming decided it was time to leave the classroom to do a show, he wanted to do things a little different than the other hunting and fishing shows.
“I wanted to do something different and I thought that fly fishing was artistic,” he said. “I thought it was engaging. I thought it was fun, and I didn’t think it was done correctly on TV.”
Fleming put together a crew, bought some cameras and went out to create a show. He said there is a lot that goes into a 30-minute segment. Depending on the setting, the crew may spend up to seven days filming and they have to whittle 20 hours of film down to 22 minutes.
“We want to show real fisherman,” Fleming said. “They have flat tires. It’s not always blue skies and the fish biting. We show the good, bad and ugly.”
The crew also has fun with each other while on a shoot. Field Producer Chad See, of Valley Head, is usually the subject of jokes.
“If you watch most of our episodes, you’ll see Chad sleeping,” Fleming said. “We make it a point – my camera guys get an extra fifty dollars if they catch him on film, sleeping.”
Fleming said See also has a taxidermy shop, Mountn’ Critters,’ in Valley Head. Like Fleming, See has found a way to turn his passion into a paycheck, which Fleming says is the most important thing in life.
“That’s my point, is to keep dreaming,” he said. “If you have something that you’re really passionate about. Take your passion and turn it into a paycheck.”
The after-school program is taking a cue from Fleming and offering a fly-tying class, taught by See.
Along with homework and core class assistance, Project SPLASH is designed to provide activities for students. In addition to the fly-tying class, the students may participate in art classes, music, physical activities and more.
Project SPLASH is funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Twenty-first CCLC after-school program director Julia Duffield explained that the program is focused on the child as a whole.
“It’s not just for the academic piece, which a lot of the misconception has been is that it’s just for tutoring,” Duffield said. “Yes, there is academic support as far as math and ELA [English/Language Arts] support, but there is also enrichment for gifted programs that’s going on. We just want to highlight some of the special interest things that you guys could be a part of, as well.”
The program ensures the students have a safe place to go to learn and a healthy after-school snack.
Principal Ricky Sharp announced that the NRAO donated funds from the Space Race Rumpus to provide a cook for the after-school program.
Music teacher Greg Morgan and two of his students gave a performance on the school’s iPads in the program Garage Band. The students are learning how to arrange music and to play music using the program.
At the end of the presentation, parents and students were invited to check out several of the programs offered through Project SPLASH.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org