As a high school teacher from Chicago, I have seen the AYV program in action and I know that it can have a profound effect on students and teachers. I traveled to the AYV Summit with two students from my school, Perspectives High School of Technology, who are both extremely passionate about their work. And, encouraged by their experience with AYV, are now intending to pursue post-secondary education in photography. During Summit orientation I saw my students Deandrea and Willeahsa jump head first into making meaningful connections with other students and educators from around the world.
Deandrea Halmon is a bright-eyed senior who was brought up into a very sheltered life due to the violence in her community. As she grew older, she learned about the power of community and formed very close ties with those around her. Deandrea has been involved with AVY since her freshman year, and I have seen her gain a broader understanding of how to express herself and gain confidence in her skills. She has started to work with her production team at Summit on creating a pitch for a project idea, and she will bring this project to life with her group over the next few days.
Willeasha Love has always dreamed of going to a university in California, so to be given the opportunity to see California and be on campus at a top university in California has been a huge moment for her. Willeasha is grateful for the opportunity to see what it is like to work at a professional level with digital technology. She has been able to bring her background and videography talent together to create a project focused on showcasing the city of Chicago from a youth’s point of view, something that is intensely meaningful to her. She has begun to work very closely with her production team and has worked collaboratively to bring yet another video vision to life.
But it’s not just my students that are gaining from the opportunities at Summit. Throughout the year, and especially in these past couple days, AYV has also provided many ways to further my curriculum, professional development and technology and documentary skills. Yesterday, among my peer educators at Summit, I was able to start to talk about my plans for my upcoming year’s curriculum. I have been given so many great ideas that I cannot wait to bring back into my classroom. Having the ability to work with so many likeminded individuals is a dream and fuels my creative fire. I have been shown some amazing documentary clips that I plan to bring into my classroom along with additional ways to help my students with their own pre-production process on their own mini-documentaries. I also have a wonderful idea for having my students use old nineteen fifty’s and sixty’s commercials to create a mini demo real spot lighting social stereotypes. I then plan to have in depth discussion with my students on how we can all work together to fight these stereotypes of sex and culture.
It’s this approach that makes AYV unique. AYV works with educators to develop curriculum and approaches to teaching that help advance students’ creativity skills. We also get the chance to connect and share our experiences through an online network of 15,000 educators. This hive of activity comes alive at moments like Summit, where educators like me get to connect with other like-minded teachers and learn and grow. In doing so, we are better able to deliver on the AYV mission of helping students develop the creative skill sets to express themselves today and compete for the jobs of tomorrow.
Overall, the AYV Summit has been an experience I feel very lucky to have been a part of. I saw how proud Deandrea and Willeasha were to present their projects and how happy they were to meet students that had such similar interests as they do. As we travel back to Chicago on Saturday, my students and I will take with us new skills, connections, friends and a new spark of creative inspiration.