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Northstar Network, Bringing CNS to the World

This year’s Northstar Network student broadcast crew “core” group of students includes (pictured above from left to right): Hunter Basciuska, Aaron Tarquinio, Drew Matyasik, Johnny Lisi and Landon Cook. The group is pictured getting ready to broadcast the C-NS vs. CBA Section III Championship game at the JMA Wireless Dome this past November. C-NS walked away with the Section III Title after defeating CBA 34-20.
Did you know that Cicero-North Syracuse is the ONLY local high school offering live pregame and halftime shows complete with student hosts, commentators, analysts, producers, and photographers? Their broadcasts have garnered as many as (over) a thousand viewers and have reached fans from as far away as Ireland this year.

It didn’t start overnight. During the 2018-2019 school year, the C-NS business curriculum expanded to begin offering “Sports Media” as an elective for students. The course is designed for students who are interested in continuing to investigate further career opportunities within the sports media industry. 

The class is a popular class among students, “because they see the word ‘sports’ in the title,” says Mark Vinnette, the course’s instructor. “But there is also a large contingent of students who take this class because it is in the foundation of what they want to do in the future. For those kids, Northstar Network is really the beginning building block.” 
Tim Bednarski is the District’s Athletic Director and is a critical piece of Northstar Network. When COVID happened and athletes weren’t able to have fans in the stands, schools started to create their own broadcasts so that families could watch the games. Most of the broadcasts consisted of a single camera but Tim knew that C-NS could do more. In Mark Vinnette’s Sports Media class, a student named Giovanni (Gio) Heater was interested in taking broadcasts to the next level. And together they did just that. 

Mr. Vinnette says that having Gio in the program at that time was “like the planets aligned” for sports media at C-NS. “Every school really started to push for this but they were doing just a game on the internet with no sound. Gio was calling the games like a pro.”

Gio was part of a team of students from Mr. Vinnette’s class to jump in and take the reins of the impressive operation that would become Northstar Network. The original broadcast team included Gio, Kyle Marchak, Robert Bateman and Owen O’Keefe. Gio and Kyle both graduated from C-NS in 2021 and went on to Virginia Tech (VT) to continue working toward sports broadcasting careers. 
Rob Bateman and Owen O’Keefe both graduated in 2022 and have gone into broadcasting in college. Rob has joined his former Northstar Network team at Virginia Tech and Owen is a freshman at Butler University in Indiana.

The young men all have impressive broadcasting accomplishments with Gio even starting already to accrue a list of celebrity interviews including ESPN Commentator and fellow C-NS grad Beth Mowins. Additionally, Gio was recently named as one of two official “voices of” the Salem Red Sox, a Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and is on the watch list for the prestigious 2023 Jim Nantz Award recognizing outstanding collegiate radio and TV sports broadcasters.  

But even with the original team members having moved on, the show hasn’t suffered. New this year, one of the show’s hosts, Junior Johnny Lisi, has taken over and even started interviewing guests such as Board of Education members, District teachers,
administrators and fellow students. Johnny has been involved with Northstar Network since his freshman year when he approached Gio about the program. Johnny said, “[Gio was the show’s host at the time] and I had been following his broadcasts and was really interested in what he was doing, so I sent him an email and was lucky enough that he responded within a few minutes saying ‘yeah, I would love to have you,’ … so I started working with him right away.”  
Students in Mark Vinnette’s Sports Media class at Cicero-North Syracuse High School are pictured above working on writing content for the school’s “C-NS Morning Show” sports news segment. The students use time in class each morning to review their fellow students’ sports accomplishments from the previous day and to write the scripts for the sportscasters who will recite the content as part of the program in Mr. Farranto’s  Media Communications classes. The students have a limited amount of time to put together the content for each day’s news and electronically share their completed scripts with Mr. Farranto’s students. 
Johnny aspires to have experiences similar to Gio but hopes to stay in the area and attend Syracuse University’s (SU) Newhouse School of Communications for sports broadcasting. In fact, Johnny was able to attend a two-week college experience at SU this past summer. Johnny refers to the full immersion as “incredible” in that he had the opportunity to get an inside look at the program and live on campus with other students.

He said, “The visit gave me the chance to apply the skills I’ve learned with Northstar Network and see how they’re going to translate into my college experience and career. The program I went for was sports technology and digital media so I had the chance to go behind the scenes and learn new things like graphic design.” 

“It helped me appreciate the team of people that we have at Northstar Network,” Lisi added. “Our crew is so specialized and talented in what they each do. Aaron [Tarquinio] is a total genius with technology. Poe [Porter] is an amazing camera operator and knows how to shoot at great angles. We brought Emma [Hall] on as a sideline reporter and she’s been amazing. We also have Drew [Matyasik], Hunter [Baciuska] and Landon [Cook] who do play by play and color for many of the games.”

Every Sunday, Johnny works with Mr. Bednarski and Mr. Vinnette to come up with a broadcast schedule with the goal of trying to “cover” at least every home game. While the logistics of doing games at another school don’t always allow for broadcasts off site, the crew has broadcasted from the Dome and NBT Stadium due to unique access that Mr. Bednarski has been able to provide.

Just like in sports the Northstar Network is a team effort. When they couldn’t use their regular booth for a home football game they broadcast from the roof. It involved many different students and staff to make it all come together.  They were able to pull it off and that’s when a viewer from Ireland wrote “thank you for making it possible to watch my nephew all the way over here in Ireland.”  

Northstar Network bringing C-NS to the world. 
Aaron Tarquinio (far left) and Johnny Lisi (middle) get ready to interview C-NS Senior Maddy Howell for the school’s Morning News Show. 
Mr. Farranto works with a student in one of his media communications classes to produce each day’s CNS Morning Show program. 
C-NS graduates (left to right): Giovanni Heater (‘21) Beth Mowins (‘85) and Kyle Marchak (‘21) are pictured together in a