For many, the term youth media is largely synonymous with youth video. Video has been the energizer and signature of the youth media movement, since it first gathered steam 25 years ago. New technology, digital equipment, software—and YouTube—have made it possible for youth-produced video to grow exponentially and bring audiences to their feet at local and national media festivals. At WKCD, though, youth media includes a breadth of media beyond video: radio, journalism, photography, storytelling, televison production.
By and large, youth media is a place-based production, engaging youth in a specific region or community and screening or broadcasting their work locally. Many of the exemplary organizations listed below are rooted in a particular city or geogrpaphic region. But the work the youth produce—regardless of the media—often travels far beyond its origins, thanks to the Internet and the rise of youth media festivals and other gatherings.
By far the majority of youth media activity—especially, alas, quality youth media—occurs outside schools, in youth-based community organizations dedicated to helping young people (more often than not from low-income communities) learn media skills and express their voice. But there are exceptions, and we've included a few school standouts here—along with well-known (and a few little known) out-of-school youth media programs.
Appalshop is a multi-media arts and cultural organization located in Whitesburg, Kentucky. It’s mission is to develop effective ways of using media to address the complex issues facing central Appalachia. In 1988 Appalshop staff members founded the Appalachian Media Institute (AMI), a training program the helps central Appalachian youth explore how media production skills can be used to ask, and begin to answer, critical questions about themselves and how to create sustainable futures for their communities. Since its inception AMI has directly engaged over 600 young people in media production.
Arts Engine, Inc. supports, produces, and distributes independent media of consequence and promotes the use of independent media by advocates, educators and the general public. Its Youth Media Distribution Initiative (YMDi) is a comprehensive series of online and offline programs that boost the distribution and impact of youth-made films. Its annual Media That Matters Film Festival includes award-winning films by youth from around the country.
Ballard High School Video Production Program
Started in 2001 by teacher Matt Lawrence, the Video Production Program at Ballard High School in Seattle, WA has been turning out accomplished youth filmmakers. Students have won numerous prizes at prestigious film festivals, including awards from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts as well as High School Awards for Excellence in a variety of categories at the Northwest Regional Emmy Awards. In 2009, Lawrence was elected to the Board of Governors (Northwest Region) of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC)
Since 1976, BAVC has been connecting underserved populations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with new opportunities in media technology. Its Next Generation programs offer a flexible pathway for youth who may lack support systems and the extra-curricular and leadership opportunities that can help to teach and reaffirm technology, learning and communication skills. Programs include: Digital Pathways—an after-school digital media training program with internship opportunities and job skills development; BUMP Records—a music performance, production and social entrepreneurship program for young adults; The Factory—an advanced video production collective for young filmmakers.
Carlsbad High School TV
Three years after the stunning success of their debut documentary about the Holocaust, the students of Carlsbad High School TV are attracting attention for their documentary about hunger in San Diego, “One in Seven: The New Face of Hunger.” CHSTV students have been producing live morning newscasts for the past 10 years. The program has earned 19 student Emmy Awards and been nationally ranked as the No. 1 daily live scholastic news program. The foray into making documentaries grew in part out of the frustration that students were limited to telling 90-second feature stories because of the nature of broadcast news.
Children’s PressLine gives kids a voice and the power to use it. Serving youth in New York City, New Orleans and Washington, D.C., CPL helps young people present themselves on important issues, then works to have their stories published in the mainstream media. Since 2001, CPL has trained 1,142 NYC youth in journalism and community workshops; interviewed 1,665 kids on issues that affect their lives; conducted 350 interviews with policymakers, from the White House to New York City’s council chambers; and published 700 articles in mainstream media.
The Washington, DC-based Critical Exposure teaches youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change. By empowering young people to develop skills as documentary photographers and advocates, Critical Exposure brings to citizens and policymakers the physical realities of inadequate schools and low-income communities through the eyes of the youth who confront those realities every day. The program's youth have contributed their images and stories to successful campaigns for more than $400 million in additional funding for public schools.
Educational Video Center
The Educational Video Center is a non-profit youth media organization dedicated to teaching documentary video as a means to develop the artistic, critical literacy, and career skills of young people, while nurturing their idealism and commitment to social change. Founded in 1984, EVC has evolved from a single video workshop for teenagers from Manhattan's Lower East Side to become an internationally acclaimed leader in youth media education. EVC's teaching methodology brings together the powerful traditions of student-centered progressive education and independent community documentary. The EVC website includes trailers of many of their award-winning films, along with tools for educators.
In the Mix
In the Mix is the Emmy award winning PBS documentary series for teens. Over 60 half hour programs on topics of critical interest to teens are available as educational DVDs. The website includes full descriptions, transcripts, video clips, discussion guides, lesson plans and more.
LA Youth newspaper is a countywide, teen-written publication with a readership of 350,000 youth and adults. Published six times a year, it has been in operation 1988, publishing the first-hand accounts of teens’ experiences with college stress, racial identity, homophobia, censorship, broken families and many more topics. Its summer internship program gives area teens with an interest in journalism a chance to research, interview, and write alongside an adult LA Youth editor. The newspaper’s young reporters have appeared on local television and radio as well as NPR’s Morning Edition. The LA Youth website includes a database of countywide teen services, links, ideas for lesson plans for teachers, and tips for parents of adolescents.
Radio Arte, a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art, is an educational radio station that has served the Pilsen/ Little Village neighborhood of Chicago since 1998. It provides a forum for young people to be creative and responsible to the largest Mexican community in the Midwest as the only bilingual (Spanish/English), youth-operated, urban, community station in the country.
Radio Rookies is a New York Public Radio initiative that provides teenagers with the tools and training to create radio stories about themselves, their communities and their world. Since 1999, Radio Rookies has been conducting workshops across New York, in predominantly under-resourced neighborhoods, training young people to use words and sounds to tell true stories. Upon completion, the Rookies' documentaries air on WNYC—usually during Morning Edition (5am to 9am weekdays on WNYC 93.9 FM and online at wnyc.org). Coverage of youth in the media rarely represents what young people are truly facing, thinking and saying. By helping young people reach WNYC's audience of more than one million weekly listeners, WNYC's Radio Rookies has become an integral part of the station. The website includes a rich archive of Radio Rookies stories.
"Are you a grrl aged 13-19 who lives in the Puget Sound region?" the Reel Grrls website asks."We'd love to have you join our community as a Reel Grrl!" The organization cultivates voice and leadership in girls at a vulnerable age in their development, offering them lasting relationships with women filmmakers and skills (animation, cinematography, script writing and more) that can propel them to leadership roles in their community, college scholarships, and careers in the media industry.
Founded in 1999, Spy Hop each year provides approximately 1,800 Salt Lake City youth with hands-on and mentorship-based learning experiences in the documentary arts, film/video production, audio engineering, and interactive media. The July 2012 "Reel Stories Premiere" showcased six new documentary films produced by Spy Hop youth, on subjects that include amusement park workers, refugees, Haiti’s rebuild, and Utah’s homeless.
Street-Level Youth Media
Street-Level Youth Media educates Chicago’s inner-city youth in media arts and emerging technologies for use in self-expression, communication, and social change. Street-Level programs build self-esteem and critical thinking skills for urban youth typically neglected by policy makers and mass media. Using video production, computer art, and the Internet, young people address community issues, access advanced technology, and gain inclusion in our information-based society.
SURA Arts Academy
The Arab American National Museum's SURA Arts Academy is a free, diversity-themed digital photography instruction program for 6th through 9th grade students in southwest Detroit. SURA is an Arabic word for photograph. SURA student photographers are given the use of a digital camera and instruction from students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and are encouraged to pursue issues of identity and community. Every fall, SURA student photographers show their work at the Arab American National Museum. In November 2008, SURA Arts Academy was one of just 15 programs nationwide to receive the prestigious Coming Up Taller Award from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, honoring the best arts- and humanities-based youth after-school programs in the United States.
Wide Angle Youth Media
Wide Angle was founded in 2000 with the goal of providing Baltimore youth and communities with the media education and resources to represent themselves. Since then, Wide Angle has worked with over 2,000 youth from across Baltimore City who have produced over 85 video about their lives and communities. It also offers free media production training to middle school students at library branches in high-need neighborhoods and hosts an annual Youth Media Festival.
WNAS Radio, 88.1 FM, has been broadcasting live from New Albany High School since May 1949, making it the first student run, FM high school radio station in the nation. WNAS TV (Cable Channel 25) began in 1980 and has been televising locally produced programs 24 hours a day ever since. The staff is made up entirely of students, which makes it unique among other local media outlets. Currently, the radio / TV programs at New Albany High School has over 100 students who receive hands-on training in radio and television production and broadcasting.
Youth Media Project
Youth Media Project teaches and practices the craft of digital storytelling for a socially responsible world. Youth Media Project contracts with public schools, colleges, youth advocacy groups, and those seeking professional development in media literacy, media production, leadership and broadcasting. "By amplifying youth voice and nurturing inter-generational dialogue," YMP notes, "students practice citizenry and leadership to create positive and caring communities."
YO! Youth Outlook is an award-winning literary journal of youth life in the Bay Area. Featuring in-depth reporting pieces and first-person essays, comic strips and poetry pages, YO! is the communication outlet for youth who feel their voice and visions need to be seen and heard. From reporting pieces on Palestinian American youth in the Bay Area to interviews with gospel hip hop bands; from photo essays by homeless youth to journal entries from temp workers in Silicon Valley, YO! offers a unique window into California's youth subcultures. YO! has a national distribution of 25,000 magazines printed 10 times a year through the school season, a local access monthly TV show (YO!TV), numerous partnerships with local and national radio broadcasts and an annual expo of youth communicators, from graffiti artists to filmmakers to incarcerated youth.
A Bay-Area-based nonprofit,Youth Radio offers a range of free training opportunities in broadcast journalism, radio, video, music and web production, engineering, media advocacy and literacy. Youth Radio programs are open to youth ages 14-18, with advanced programs open to young adults up to 24 years of age Its Core and Bridge programs provide beginning and intermediate training. MATCH (Media Advocates Transforming Community Health) is 6-month intensive health-focused, leadership, education, professional soft skills, and media training designed for Oakland youth aged 14-18 who have recently been released from Alameda County’s Juvenile Justice Center. Graduates of Youth Radio’s Bridge and MATCH programs are eligible for Youth Radio’s internships.
Youth Communication trains teenagers in journalism and publishes two award-winning magazines written by and for young people. The website posts current and back issues of NYC (New Youth Connections), a general interest magazine by and for youth in New York City, and Foster Care Youth United, written by and for young people in foster care, homeless shelters, and other youth facilities. It also features many samples of student writing from teenagers participating in special Youth Communication training programs that complement their magazines—such as Girls’ Writing Group and Voices of Youth (for foster kids). Also posted are curriculum guides and training opportunities for teachers, social workers, and other professionals who work with youth.
YPress is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit news bureau that gives youth a voice in the world through journalism. Stories are researched, reported and written by reporters (ages 10-13) and editors (ages 14-18) for audiences of all ages. Their stories, articles, and multimedia pieces —on local, national, and global topics—appear every other week in the Indianapolis Star. YPress reporters covered the presidential conventions in 2004 and 2008, and will do so again in 2012, as well as producing special features each year from around the world. The Y-Press web site is updated regularly and encourages external submissions and comments about youth-written stories and reviews. (Young journalists at Y-Press have been contributing stories to the WKCD website for five years.)
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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”
– Deborah Meier, educator