||January 23, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 2 • Oakland, CA|
| Urban school
lesson in digital filmmaking
If you use your imagination, this film premier had all
the trappings of Hollywood. The paparazzi, however, were polite and wore
University of California nametags; buses substituted for limousines; spaghetti
pinch-hit for caviar. But the filmmakers’ smiles and pride in their
work required no imagination.
For students at a half-dozen urban Catholic schools and one Oakland charter school, the December event at the University of California at Berkeley marked the public showing of their films — and a public acknowledgement of their promise for the future.
When Glynda Hull, principal investigator for the Eastbay Collaborative for Underserved Children, took the microphone to officially welcome the students and their families to UC Berkeley, she said she hoped it would not be the last time. We hope you will return to us as students, she said.
Then she taught them the two words they’ll need to know: “Go Bears!”
In a roomful of parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers and principals, the words of promise could not have been more welcome. The students attend, at no cost to their families, an after-school program designed to guide them on the path to college.
The 21st Century Learning Centers are part of daily life at the urban Catholic schools of the diocese — St. Cornelius in Richmond, Our Lady of the Rosary in Union City, and St. Anthony, St. Elizabeth, St. Jarlath and St. Martin de Porres in Oakland.
The curriculum, which includes a before-school program and breakfast, includes after-school homework time and enrichment classes. One offering in fall 2011 was Space2Create8, a program that taught digital filmmaking to students on equipment that some of the schools might not otherwise have.
“It levels the playing field,” said Sherri Moradi, principal of St. Cornelius School, where about a half-dozen sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders made films in the learning center directed by Greg DeFabio.
The St. Cornelius filmmakers were easy to spot at the premiere, drawing much attention from their fellow students for their hooded sweatshirts printed with a list of their names. Victoria Cooper, their Space2Create8 instructor, kept a close watch on her young charges. The young woman they called “Miss Victoria” is a member of the St. Cornelius Class of 2003 and a graduate of Salesian High School. In addition to going to college, she works with the students after school.
At St. Cornelius School, where 115 of the 180 students attend the 21st Century Learning Center, seventh-graders Yesenia Garcia and Kathleen Hernandez were among the young filmmakers.
Yesenia said she chose to make a film about the arrival of her baby brother two years ago because “I think of him constantly.” Her mother enjoyed seeing the film, said Yesenia, who is saving a copy on the computer to show her brother when he’s old enough to enjoy it.
Kathleen’s film, “The Day I Got My Puppy,” tells of her delight with her toy fox terrier.
During the Space2Create8 class, they had the chance to use its social media component to chat with students in the program at St. Anthony and St. Elizabeth schools, as well as the Oakland Military Institute.
What they learned in Space2Create8 will not be left behind, Yesenia said, but will find its way into other classroom use. “We found another way to do our presentations,” she said.
Yesenia, who used stock images from the Internet for her movie, said she would like to remake her film, this time using images of her brother and her family. Kathleen has an idea for her second film, about her family’s roots in El Salvador.
Both had chosen the class, with the assistance of parents, from offerings that have included tae kwon do, sports and Spanish. In addition to time to complete homework and have a snack, such enrichment activities fill the afternoon hours. Parents are encouraged to keep the children there for the entire session, so less time is spent in front of a television set at home.
Back at the premiere, an instant photo booth where an array of hats, from elves to pirates was available to the young filmmakers. In a quieter area, students were trying out SmartyAnts, an interactive reading program from LeapFrog founder Mike Wood.
Time and again, parents were honored for being their child’s first teacher, and offered information, from free software to access to free computers, to them. Dinner was served, and transportation was arranged from the schools to the Berkeley campus. The St. Cornelius group sang on their bus ride.
After dinner, the lights in Pauley Ballroom dimmed, and the connection made to the laptop that projected the films. “Zombie Detention,” a group project at St. Jarlath School, replete with special effects and the ending that it was all — of course — a dream was among the first to be screened.
The individual films — about two minutes in length, using a variety of digital filmmaking tools — told many personal stories. In addition to stories of new puppies and baby brothers (“I have to admit it, it was love at first sight,” was one memorable line), there were immigration stories of leaving Eritrea, for example, and not wanting a new stepfather and of wanting to be a dancer, if parents found that to be a less-than-worthy goal.
One film told of a parent’s job loss, and a student’s determination to not drop out of high school as her siblings had.
“But I’m different. I will finish high school and graduate,” the narrator states firmly.
The audience cheered.
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