Students as young as 12 years old are writing, shooting, editing and starring in videos that have been shown in news programs on Univision-owned WXTV New York.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for kids to have a voice on social and community issues that impact them,” said Dominic Cipollone, principal at New Venture Community School in the Bronx.
The results are part of a project started by Hispanic-focused Univision Communications, to open media centers in schools across the U.S.
New Venture Community School in the Bronx was the first one opened earlier this year and more on the way in Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Oakland.
“This is the first of the Univision Media Centers we plan to create across the U.S. as part of our efforts to increase diversity in the media and technology sectors and our commitment to investing in the future generation of media professionals,” said Randy Falco, Univision’s president.
The media centers are equipped with five to eight production kits, which includes cameras, microphones, lights and other video production equipment.
Some of the centers also include editing computers as well as a mini control room complete with switchers, monitors and audio boards.
In addition to gaining experience with production and editing equipment, the students will receive training from media professionals at Univision.
“We had everyone from the highest level executives put in the time and elbow grease to set up the centers,” said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Univision’s government and corporate affairs EVP. “Then we’re helping with the curriculum development and also sending in professionals to go in and regularly work with the students.”
“It really is a way to give young people a voice,” said Cipollone. “In communities like ours, if we expect change to take place, it has to come from children who live in the community.”
Children like 12 year-old Heaven Castillo and Hailee Drew, students at the Bronx’s New Venture Community School, who learned right away the power of collaboration in storytelling.
“Hailee wanted to do a video on pollution,” said Castillo, “and I wanted to do something on animals. So we decided to combine it, and came up with how pollution affect animals.”
The students researched their subject and found useful images on Google. The pair discovered that each of them brought a unique strength to creating the video.
“Heaven is very good at talking,” said Drew, “she just knows what to say. I’m really good at the editing part, so it came together because of those two talents that we have.”
Although neither had any on-camera experience, both admitted feeling comfortable addressing the lens. “We weren’t freaking out about being on camera,” said Castillo.
Drew found her niche putting the story together, “editing was very fun.”
Although both embraced the technology and had fun doing it, Univision has a more profound reason for the media centers.
“We’re not giving them the tools and saying OK, make videos,” said Herrera-Flanigan. “It’s more like, you can make this a possible career track for yourself.”
While both do envision themselves as journalists someday, they already feel like TV stars after their video aired on WXTV.
Classmates come up to Castillo asking, “Weren’t you on television? My whole family saw it and they want to congratulate me.”
“Parents, classmates, were surprised,” said Drew, “because they had no idea we were working on it. They were asking us a whole bunch of questions, how did you do it, where did you get the material, how did you do the effects?”
“And that’s our vision,” said Cipollone, “to have kids become leaders, and understand the power of their voice, the power of media, and how it can influence ideas moving forward.
“When we give children that power, and that ability to be heard, you can move mountains.”
To read more about Univision’s unveiling of the first media center at New Venture Middle School, click here.
To read more about the volunteer efforts of Univision employees at the school media centers, click here .
NOTE: In nearly every high school, (and many middle and elementary schools), there is a TV studio, studio cameras, switchers, digital field cameras, sophisticated non-linear edit systems, graphic animations software programs, etc. that rival and sometimes exceed what exists in many TV stations.
And every day, they’re putting together newscasts that are broadcast within the schools and sometimes on local community cable channels. In many of these newscasts are edited packages that cover every area of daily school life. And many of them are inventive, provocative, and creative. Many of them are well-written and crafted, covering issues like teen pregnancy, bullying, drinking and driving, drugs, relationships with parents, health, love and sex, and many other issues that are relevant to young adult life.
Of course, many are scholastic in nature — interpretations of short stories, music and song, original stories and fantasy.
Rich and varied content, from a perspective not seen in local TV news, is being created everyday. I contend that their voice might have a regular place in your local TV news.
Parents would want to see it. Teens, or course, would watch it. School board members would want their districts included. School principals would be proud to have their school represented. And the average viewer would marvel at what the oft-maligned teenager is capable of doing.
The content is there — all you have to do is tap into it, and put it on the air and promote it. And think of who would want to sponsor such a segment — computer companies, record companies, clothing stores, movie studios, etc.