|Perales at campus radio station|
Accompanying his father on a hospital visit for a combat injury from the Vietnam War, Perales had the idea to chronicle the plight of injured veterans in a radio documentary for a Media Communications class.
On Sunday, he picked up a first-place international broadcasting award in Las Vegas in the 2018 BEA Festival of Media Arts, billed as the world’s largest digital media and broadcast competition for students and faculty. The Broadcast Education Association is an international professional association for instructors, students and industry professionals in electronic media and multimedia enterprises.
Perales’ 9-minute documentary, “Their Odyssey,” inspired by his Army veteran father, won first place in the audio production category for students attending two-year or small colleges. Perales’ win is the only one for a community college in the entire division.
Evan Wirig, Media Communications chair, said Perales competed against 87 entrants from two- and four-year colleges and universities across the world. He noted that Perales’ award is the 25th time since 2000 that students from Griffin Radio, Grossmont College’s radio station, have been honored.
Perales’ documentary focuses on veterans in rural communities like Calexico, where he talked to former military men suffering cancer and other ailments who are forced to travel long distances for treatment because of a lack of Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics in their communities.
“They have served our country. They have risked their lives. They have paid every imaginable price for us. My name is Alan Perales and I am the son of a disabled veteran,” Perales intoned in a rich baritone in the audio recording.
Jerry Smith, one of Perales’ interviewees, described the agony of the two-hour post-surgery commutes he had to endure as a testicular cancer patient getting treated at the VA medical center in La Jolla.
“I felt every bump, every turn, every stop, every acceleration,” Smith said about traveling from his Imperial Valley home.
In addition to personal accounts by veterans, Perales’ documentary illustrates the scope of the issue: 6 million, or 30 percent of the veteran population live in rural America. Disabled veterans in rural areas represent 36 percent of the total veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system.
Perales’ father was an infantryman and lone survivor after his chopper was shot down in Vietnam. His mangled body was found in a tree with nearly every bone fractured. A yearlong hospital stay ensued and he was able to walk again, but complications like a slipped disc continue to plague him, requiring regular visits to the VA hospital. It was one such visit that planted the seed for “Their Odyssey.”
“One of the hospital techs struck up a conversation with me and he was talking about the difficulties facing veterans in the rural areas,” Perales said. “That got me to thinking and that’s how this project got started.”
This is his second BEA award in as many years. In 2017, he won an Award of Excellence in the audio production category for a college radio newscast.
“I was so excited about this year’s win,” Perales said. “The first thing I did was to go from the campus radio station broadcast room into the TV studio where Evan was and I interrupted his class and to announce my first-place win.”
Perales said winning a broadcasting award is especially meaningful because he grew up speaking Spanish at home. His parents came to the United States from Mexico and Perales remembers leaning to speak English by watching television.
A drum major in his high school band, the Mount Miguel High School graduate first came to Grossmont College in 2011 to study music, but he soon realized that his speaking talents surpassed his musical skills.
One day during a music class, Perales volunteered to read aloud from a textbook and his fellow students sat, riveted.
“The teacher asked me if I had ever considered being a narrator,” said Perales, the station manager of Grossmont College’s Griffin Radio for the past year and the live sound engineer at his church. “I hear all the time that I have a radio voice.”
Perales hopes to transfer in the fall to San Diego State University to pursue a bachelor’s in New Media, and he said he owes much of his success to Grossmont College.
“The amount of support I receive from here is overwhelming,” he said. “The ability to succeed is there for anyone willing to reach out and to work for it.”
The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District serves about 29,000 students each semester, nearly 19,000 at Grossmont College and almost 10,000 at Cuyamaca College. For more information about the colleges, go to www.gcccd.edu