Prior t social distancing being enacted in South Carolina, a team of youth changemakers gathered at Aiken High School to learn elements of documentary filmmaking.
This cross-site sharing and learning is part of the Next Generation Leadership Network supported by Middlebury College's Bread Loaf Teacher Network.
The Vermont team traveled to work with the group from the rural South Carolina site of the network, BLTN NextGen-SC. The group included Jamon Dubose, an Aiken High School graduate and a member of the local NextGen cohort who is now a freshman at USC Aiken.
The youth from Vermont have become skilled in documentary work through their participation in What's the Story? The Vermont Young Person Social Action Team, a free course for Vermont secondary students and one of the many advocacy efforts across the seven-site NextGen network.
"This is why we do this – for youth to learn ways to better understand themselves and help to change their worlds," said Tim O'Leary, What's the Story? Vermont's co-director.
The outcome of the project is for young people to sharpen their abilities to use video techniques, convey a message and tell a story in order to make positive change in their schools and communities.Travel was supported by the SNAVE Foundation.
The NextGen program empowers students from both states through innovative initiatives like What's the Story?
"One NextGen tenet is to add youth voices to larger community, state and national conversations about issues that directly impact youth," said Dr. Lillian Reeves, assistant professor at USC Aiken and BLTN NextGen-SC site director.
"Adding film production to the S.C. students' tool belt will give them the chance to take their work further than we have yet been able to," Reeves said. "This workshop also allows us to collaborate intensively with Vermont NextGen members, to share our experiences across distance, and to strengthen the network."
BLTN NextGen Leadership Network founder Dixie Goswami, a native of South Carolina and co-founder in 1996 of the Write to Change Foundation, notes that the NextGen-SC social action team in Aiken serves locally as mentors to children, teens and youth-serving organizations, leading family literacy nights, after-school sports and learning sessions, and serving statewide as resources to organizations involved in providing equitable opportunities for youth in low-income rural and other communities.
Local NextGen youth from Aiken High School are leaders in the national BLTN NextGen network, traveling to conferences and workshops in Vermont, the Navajo Nation Headquarters in Window Rock, Arizona, and to the Andover Bread Loaf NextGen site in Lawrence, Mass.
BLTN NextGen-SC is partnered with the South Carolina Arts Commission's "Art of Community: Rural SC."