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Notes from Panel Discussion: Improving Education Through Youth Media

The Center for Social Media, in collaboration with Critical Exposure, the American University Community Service Office and Teach For America co-sponsored a panel discussion focusing on the power of youth media to shape public discourse. The meeting, entitled Improving Education Through Youth Media, took place on December 5, 2006 at American University.

The panel brought together youth media teachers from organizations throughout the DC area. These groups give young people a voice to raise awareness on issues that are important to them and ultimately affect all of civil society, such as public school restoration, homelessness, gentrification, and youth violence.

The panelists explained the impact that their organizations’ programs have had on DC youth and discussed the current challenges that threaten their continued success in the community.

The panelists included:
-Heather Rieman, of Critical Exposure

-Marie Moll-Amego of the Latin American Youth Center, Art & Media House

-Kevin Ashton, of the Youth Education Alliance

-Danielle Kurzweil of Youth Action Research Group

-Tawanda Davis, of Facilitating Leadership in Youth

-Rebecca, Chuancey, of Earth Conservation Corps

-Kathryn Montgomery, SOC Faculty and moderator

Youth media programs equip young people with the skills they need to express themselves and advocate for social change through all types of media, including photography, documentary video production, fine art or graphics. Reaching youth and providing them an outlet through which they can express their social and political concerns is crucial to the health of public media in a democratic, civil society.

Examples of Youth Media in the field

Youth media programs help young people to become more invested in their communities. The resources and opportunities offered through this programming helps youth to become part of the solution, rather than contributing to the problems like youth violence. Below are examples of youth media in action:

  • Critical Exposure has offered youth in the DC area the chance to exhibit photography to express their views on public education to both their own communities and to policymakers, in hopes of influencing legislative decisions that will improve the public education infrastructure. One participant commented that, "thanks to Critical Exposure I have been noticed, heard, and made a difference."
  • The Latin American Youth Center/Art & Media House tailors its programs to meet the needs of children of immigrants. The organization also sponsors a weekly radio show called RED (Revolutionary Education for the District) which is broadcast on the web.
  • The Youth Education Alliance provides young people the opportunity to produce DVDs, online video clips, and a magazine to promote their issues regarding education. These projects, including a new documentary on the importance of guidance counselors, are available on www.youtheducationalliance.org.
  • The Youth Action Research Group employs youth in the community to manage photography and video production projects that focus mainly on mitigating youth violence. The organization also produces a radio show and blog that give youth an additional voice to weigh on issues that matter to their cohort.
  • Facilitating Leadership in Youth summer councils bring together youth councils and forums for discussion and full magazines covering important youth issues. This past summer they put together a business called "Pump Tease", a t-shirt design company that used photos of neighborhood street signs as t-shirt graphics.
  • The Earth Conservation Corps implements similar programs to help youth develop skills in professional video production with the goal of preparing them for real careers in media after the program is complete. All of their pieces are screened on DC TV as well.

Increasing the impact of Youth Media

All of the panelists agreed that strong coordination amongst the local community is crucial to promote Youth Media and maximize its impact to the community. The most relied-upon channels include public hearings, and local TV and radio stations.

The internet is becoming increasingly important in youth media with the advent of citizen journalism outlets like Youtube. These methods are widely available, inexpensive and do not require a high production value to share work.

Challenges facing youth media

Funding proves to be the greatest threat to youth media organizations and programs. With limited resources, organizations often have fewer funds to pay full-time staff that often has the experience and expertise to fully develop and dedicate time to developing programs and outreach strategies. Individual donors and foundations are key to helping these organizations support the full-time staff members that they have, but they must rely heavily on interns and volunteers.

Fewer funds also means restrictions on the types and quantity of equipment that can be purchased for students to use for projects. Great resources would bring more opportunities to expand the span of projects that organizations could undertake.