Nurturing Young Filmmakers
Raising 100,000 Voices
What do you do when you live in Rochester, N.Y., a city with the state's highest homicide rate, the most gang-related violence per capita and a 50% high school drop out rate? If you're Shelly Figueroa of WXXI public television, you create Raising 100,000 Voices, an initiative giving local teens a chance to articulate their viewpoint and lead the community in responding to the problems.
Named for the 100,000 15-to-24-year-olds living in the region, the initiative provides young adults with a disposable camera, adult guidance, and the skills to create a three-minute film on a topic of their choice. One hundred youth have used the opportunity to document urgent concerns like drug use, racism and teen pregnancy.
Enthusiastic reactions from audiences helped the filmmakers understand their "voice does have an audience in the real world," explained Figueroa. And the "real world" has begun to respond to the messages. Rochester leaders have used the videos to identify needs and available resources they can use to address public health issues.
The initiative had a profound effect on the filmmakers, as well. In conversation with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, one teen said the filmmaking made him realize the potential of his own creativity and how he can use it to overcome drugs and violence.
Gerald, a teen whose video documented his own depression, revealed that the creation process turned his attitude more hopeful. "Right now, the best day of my life has to be today. And then tomorrow, that will be my favorite day."