Guest Post by Peter French
So often it is just a matter of finding that moment, that perfect opportunity to totally engage with a student and give them the chance to really shine.
Matt Calvin had always been a good but fairly quiet, understated student in my digital design class in grades 11 and 12. Matt’s work has always been interesting, and as he progressed through the grade 12 projects, he showed more and more promise as an artist. However, it was when I announced the Adobe Youth Voices program and video and poster projects that he took off like a rocket.
Matt immediately came over to me and told me he had been suffering from serious depression, that he had been hurting himself but now was getting help, and that he wanted to make a video about his journey so he could help others who were going through the same horrible experience.
I was a little taken aback by hearing all of this, but I recall being very excited by this incredible prospect for a really meaningful film. I also recall recommending to him to proceed with caution. He had to be very careful about how much he revealed and the way he revealed it. All of this happened in a few brief minutes, but it led to something amazing.
Matt had lost a dear relative with whom he had been very close, and it had upset him more than he had realized. Unfortunately he had not found ways to communicate this to anyone else, and it had remained bottled up inside. The eventual outcome was a case of serious depression that was finally expressed through cutting himself. Ultimately he made a very deep cut that required him to be rushed to the hospital for several stitches. That was the tipping point which made his parents realize what had been going on and reach out for help. The support he found was rich and deep. I believe that he came out of this as well as he did because of the support he received, and because he is a very strong young man.
As Matt and I talked, I realized that there were several reasons for making this video and poster. Yes, it was a major class project but there were bigger issues here. It would be a part of his healing process – a cathartic release from the depths of this experience. And, it would allow him to turn this very negative experience into a strong healing film that could help others.
The poster and the video are fabulous. He scored a near perfect mark for each item. When I showed this video to my peers at the Adobe Education Leader’s Summer Institute in July 2011, they were very impressed and moved. It is so simple and yet so compelling:
This past December The Toronto Star, a major newspaper in Canada, featured a series about teen depression and suicide. I sent them Matt’s video and asked if they would like to publish it so other teens could see it and hopefully be helped. They did that, and more, ultimately publishing the video and a feature about Matt’s journey with depression and healing through creativity (click to view the article).
In conclusion, it has been an amazing process and a privilege to support Matt on his creative journey. Teachers dream of working with students at this level. The Adobe Youth Voices program not only allows it – it encourages it by creating the environment and opportunity for this type of work to start and then take off.
Adobe Youth Voices Lead Educator