Carson High School student wins spot at Smallwood Multi-Media Boot Camp

Carson High School Career and Technical Education graphic design student, Jose Conchas Vargas, has been selected to attend the Smallwood Multi-Media Boot Camp June 13-23 at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center.

Conchas Vargas, a senior in the fall, is the only Carson City student selected to join other students from northern Nevada.

“I’m really excited to get more experience in media and new technology,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get chosen. It’s a big opportunity to learn new things like animation, virtual reality and video editing.”

To be selected for the camp, students had to be nominated by a teacher and submit a digital portfolio. Conchas Vargas said his portfolio contained classroom assignments including magazine ads for food and cars he designed to appeal to a variety of audiences.

Mark Gandolfo, director of digital media technology at the University’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, said students’ submissions were evaluated on creativity, originality, technical skills and execution, professionalism, production value and student potential.

Camp attendees will receive concentrated instruction in audio, video, and media editing software, and produce projects shooting video with camcorders, creating 2D and 3D animation and recording room technologies.

“Our goal is to provide a point of discovery, to have a variety of different materials for the students to come in contact with,” Gandolfo said. “The curriculum is intense. They may not like it all, but we’re giving them hands-on experience with a broad variety of topics they haven’t done before.”

The camp, founded in 2010, is funded by a grant from the Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation. Gandolfo said the camp wouldn’t exist without the Foundation.

“We couldn’t offer these kids this opportunity without the Smallwood Foundation,” Gandolfo said. “One of the coolest things I get to do every year is present a synopsis of the camp to the directors. They are great people who are always excited to see what the students have done.”

Each year, camp attendees produce a capstone project incorporating all of the disciplines they studied in camp. Gandolfo said the project is templated with a prepared script and voice-over, but last year two students created their own video.

“I was skeptical at first,” he said. “But not only did they do a wonderful job, it really came from their hearts on how the students felt about the program. These students come in from schools all over not knowing anyone, and by the end of two weeks they’ve created amazing things together and formed bonds that will last long past high school.”

Aside from discovery and collegiality, Gandolfo said another goal for the camp is to introduce high school students to the university atmosphere so they can visualize themselves as college students.

“These are high quality, high caliber students.” he said. “We’ve got one at Loyola Marymount studying film, one at the University of Southern California and the majority end up here at the University.”

Conchas Vargas plans on attending Western Nevada College to study graphic design after completing the CTE courses at Carson High School, and transferring to the Las Vegas Art Institute after earning his associate’s degree. Carson High School’s graphic design program is one of the many career and technical programs designed to help students identify potential career paths.

“I don’t know what future career I’ll have, there are so many opportunities I don’t even know about,” Conchas Vargas said. “I’m just really excited to learn new things.”

To see daily updates on the 2016 Smallwood Multimedia Bootcamp, visit


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