It’s not every day you walk into class and see a fellow student with a camera in his hand and a smile glued to his face. At Riverside High School, that’s part of the routine.
Opening in 2015, Riverside welcomed students from numerous high schools. When a new high school opens its doors, there’s bound to be some bumps in the early stages of the school’s life. For Mitchell Pehlke and his fellow Riverside classmates, that wasn’t the case, and the school quickly became a second home.
Pehlke, a rising freshman for Ohio State lacrosse and recent graduate of Riverside, brought his camera to school with him to capture what life is like at the Loudon County school. He roams the hallways and laughs with nearly every person that walks by him. He’ll point the camera at the seemingly quiet kid who’ll look at the lens and start making jokes. No video is the same, which describes what Pehlke is like: unique.
The beginning and growth of Mitchell Pehlke’s YouTube channel
Started in December of 2015, Pehlke’s YouTube channel began with no sense of direction. It was fun for him and a way to show his humorous and positive lifestyle. Four years later, it’s become a cornerstone in his life.
“It started with my boy [Evan Buckley] … I was sitting with him in class my freshman year at Stone Bridge and looked over and said, ‘Yo, if I cut your hair and you cut mine, would you want to do that?’ and he said, ‘Hell yeah,'” Pehlke said. “So we did that and people loved it, so I never really stopped there.”
The growth began in Pehlke’s friend group, but since then, it’s grown into nearly 9,000 subscribers. According to Pehlke, it wasn’t a groundbreaking video that sparked growth. To him, it was just a normal, fun video.
“My channel really started to take off 3when I did a Mitchell Pehlke day in the life,” Pehlke said. “I woke up, went to school, had a big football game. I think people loved seeing the behind the scenes of Riverside and seeing what my daily routine is. Honestly, I don’t know why it’s so intriguing to people, but they loved it. After I found out that video was so successful, I just started making more videos at my school.”
Since then, it’s captured simple evenings with his family, a normal school day at Riverside and the many twists and turns people see in high school. Right now, Pehlke is in the midst of his series called “The Ride,” where he documents every game day for Riverside boys’ lacrosse’s 2019 season. Spoiler: The series will end on a good note. From locker room antics to highlights of the Rams’ impressive season, the videos give a sense of what it’s like to be a member of the team. Pehlke captures the high school feel and allows viewers to be apart of what will become a championship journey.
For the series, a video takes six to eight hours to edit. Pehlke doesn’t plan the video’s content, however, he let his peers at Riverside take the wheel. After all, they’re apart of his channel just like Pehlke.
“It’s a really long process, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that about YouTube,” Pehlke said. “My 30-day challenge, where I recorded a video for 30 days, that was honestly terrible,” Pehlke said. “Getting up some days when I didn’t want to do it, I had to do it because I was in that challenge and didn’t want to let my fans down.”
Heartbreak turned championship
A new school making its presence known in athletics can be seen as a Cinderella story. In 2017, Riverside captured its first state championship in boys’ lacrosse. Looking to go back-to-back in 2018, the Rams were cruising. Then, it met rival Dominion, and the quest for a second consecutive title was gone. Pehlke said it was something that fueled the team to not let something like that happen again.
“I think our biggest thing was last year losing to Dominion in the state semis, none of us liked that,” Pehlke said. “I remembered it for a year. After losing that game, all of us were crying and the seniors leaving was a terrible feeling.”
For the juniors of the team who were about to become seniors, an added responsibility was put on their plate. The departing seniors wouldn’t get the chance of redemption, but Pehlke and Co. would, and they made sure to make the most of their opportunity.
In 2019, Riverside went 18-2 and posted 13 double-digit wins. One of the losses came against eventual VHSL 5A champion Briar Woods, while the other was to Dominion. Both games were decided by two goals.
“After that Dominion game, all of the coaches and seniors had a meeting the next day,” Pehlke said. “We laid it on the line, what we need to do better, what we can communicate about more. After that meeting, it was uphill from there.”
The meeting worked. After the loss to Dominion, the Rams rolled in eight consecutive games, including an 11-4 victory over Dominion in the state semifinals. While it took heartbreak to get there, Riverside’s dominant season culminated in the program’s second state championship.
“Winning a state championship this year was a dream come true,” Pehlke said. “Everyone wants to go out on top and leave a mark and go out your senior year with a state championship.”
Life after Riverside
No matter how enjoyable high school is, it must come to an end. For Pehlke, it’s bittersweet, but he knows he’ll be back to visit the halls he once entered nearly everyday for three years.
“Like I say on YouTube and I tell everyone, it’s the best high school in America,” Pehlke said. “You walk into that school, it just feels like a family. Everyone’s so nice and it’s not your traditional high school where there’s seniority … It’s run really well.”
When asked what makes Riverside the best in America, Pehlke didn’t answer boasting the athletics or any academic statistics. He chalked it up to the members of the school, from students to the administration.
“There’s a lot of special people here, and then Riverside, I’m really going to miss that school,” Pehlke said. “There’s something about this area you don’t get anywhere else. I’m definitely going to miss it and miss going to Riverside. That place is amazing.”
Pehlke is sad to say goodbye to seeing his childhood friends everyday, but he’s ready to take on a new challenge – one that’s in a state he’s never lived in. He’ll strap on his helmet with the famous block “O” and be proud to call himself an Ohio State Buckeye. He says he’s not nervous about the transition to college lacrosse, but as for the school aspect, that’s a different story.
It took some detours along the way, but Pehlke found himself a home in Riverside. His imagination has built a YouTube channel and will hope to keep doing so – after his homework is done, of course – for a long time. When asked to describe himself in one word, it took him a few seconds to think, but eventually, he landed on the word many would agree with.
“Unique,” Pehlke said. “From prom and homecoming suits, vlogging in school, taping my whole lacrosse stick. They’re like, ‘Who does that? That’s weird,’ No one does it, so I do it.”