State Stories

07

Andrew HS Student Stars On NFHS Broadcasts, Draws Big Names To Podcast

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Victor J. Andrew High School’s school broadcasting program, VJA TV, has created a storied tradition in a short time and may have found its next star in current junior broadcaster Jon Zaghloul.

Former student Nate Szynal laid the program’s foundation, using grants and a partnership with the Chicago White Sox to help build the program’s equipment and production quality. Szynal’s efforts led Andrew to be one of the first standout programs in the NFHS Network’s School Broadcasting Program, even making history when they used a backboard cam in a broadcast, marking the first time that had ever been done in a high school basketball game.

After graduating, Szynal continued to run the program, before stepping away after the 2014-15 school year. Szynal’s final year running the program overlapped with that of then freshman Jon Zaghloul, who is now making his own mark on the program.

“I was put in charge of the School Broadcast Program in the summer of 2015,” said Jason Kulasa, a business teacher at Andrew high school. “I was reviewing some of the group’s work from the year before and heard some of Jon’s calls on football and basketball games. I didn’t know who he was yet, but I thought whoever is announcing these games is unbelievable. They have a lot of talent.”

Already interested in broadcasting in junior high school, VJA TV was an important influence in Zaghloul’s decision to attend his hometown high school in Tinley Park, as he considered other options for high school.

“When I was in seventh grade I saw a story on VJA TV in the Tinley Junction newspaper,” said Zaghloul. “I already had an interest in broadcasting, so when my dad and I saw that story, we kind of knew this was where I was meant to be.”

Zaghloul broke into VJA TV as a freshman by serving in a rotation to call play-by-play on some contests, while working as a sideline reporter or in production in others. As a sophomore in 2015-16, he became the voice of Andrew football and basketball on the NFHS Network, and continues that role this year.

“When you listen to Jon, there is something special there,” said Kalusa. “There is a respect and love for the game that comes across. He has a genuine enthusiasm for the sport and for the athletes that can’t be faked. I just sit back and enjoy his work.”

The NFHS Network has also enjoyed Zaghloul’s work, naming him a finalist in 2016 for its national award recognizing the top high school student broadcaster in the country. However, play-by-play isn’t the only place where is making national news.

At the urging of his uncle, Zaghloul started a general online sports blog, Sports Talk: Chicago, and then added a podcast, which thanks to his persistence and professionalism has attracted some big-name guests from both the professional sports and broadcasting world. That group includes NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer, NBA on TNT Broadcaster Kevin Harlan, Chicago Cubs TV broadcaster Len Kasper, former MLB pitcher David Ardsma, Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Mike Ferrin, former Chicago Bull Chris Duhon, former MLB player/manager/broadcaster Buck Martinez and former Chicago Bears great Charles “Peanut” Tillman.

While Zaghloul has been a standout student in the program, Kalusa continues to try and uphold VJA TV's storied reputation by creating learning opportunities for all of his students. He arranged for the entire VJA TV crew to make the trip to Evanston last year, where the group shadowed a Big Ten Network crew during their broadcast of a Wildcat Women’s Volleyball match.

Attending college full-time is still two years away for Zaghloul, but he is ready to put his VJA TV education to use at the collegiate level.

“My plan is to stay involved in broadcasting and broadcast journalism in college,” said Zaghloul. “Hopefully with this experience under my belt, it will pay off in the future.”