After the success of last year’s Summer Youth Employment Program at the MNN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center, newly appointed Firehouse Director Zenaida Mendez saw an opportunity to build on a strong foundation. Mendez and her team spent the spring reshaping the curriculum and created an intense, hands-on program designed to give students both the technical skills they need to create media, and critical thinking skills to help them analyze how media outlets cover key issues.
“I’m here to listen to both sides of the story and to make my voice heard,” said MNN Summer Program student Krystina Rivera. “I am the voice of El Barrio. I have lived here my whole life and I want people to understand the struggle, so I’m here to obtain the skills to not only tell my story but to visualize it and make it somewhat a reality to those who judge or don’t know.”
In collaboration with Alianza Dominicana and El Barrio Operation Fightback, and through NYC's Summer Youth Employment Program, a citywide initiative that connects youth ages 14-24 with meaningful, paid summer employment opportunities, MNN’s Summer Youth Program participants received hands-on training in field production. Throughout the six-week program, students also worked with media creators, journalists, and activists.
Students had the opportunity to hear from and share ideas with Amy Goodman, host of “Democracy Now,” David Riker, award-winning screenwriter of “La Ciudad” and “Dirty Wars,” and C. Virginia Fields, the former Manhattan Borough President and current President of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Love Heals and the Correctional Association led workshops and MNN staff helped the students explore the role social media plays in journalism and media creation. Students recently hosted Twitter chats on topics like police brutality and transgender incarceration.
On Thursday, August 13, over 20 students will showcase their projects, graduate as certified producers and be ready to take their new skills out into the world.
The program has been such a success that MNN will run similar cohorts year-round, welcoming students to the Firehouse after school and on weekends.
“We look at MNN’s program as more than just a paycheck for students,” says Mendez. “We want our students to leave with skills that can change their lives for years to come.”