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The story of the Youth Media Initiative began when the Olivet Boys and Girls Club extended a request to Haydenfilms Institute to help them address gun violence in their area through the creation of public service announcements. Drawing on the inspiration of the PSAs created by the youth of the Club, HFI created an eight-week PSA curriculum that would be called the Haydenfilms Youth Media Initiative, a program formatted similarly to replicate the work done with the Boys and Girls Club, but this time focusing primarily on the youth in neighboring Reading, Pa. With this vision in hand, but support lacking, HFI Executive Director Hayden Craddolph began the four year journey of gaining ground for this potentially life-changing project.
In 2009, Craddolph awarded the Haydenfilms 4.0 Online Film Festival $10,000 prize to Temple University student, Johnny Ray Gill. After Gill and Craddolph simultaneously relocated to California in 2010, they formed a partnership based on their desire to create more social issue-based films. When Gill learned of the YMI, he was hooked, signing up to act as the main mentor for the students. In 2012, YMI partnered with the Reading Youth Violence Prevention Program, seeking to reduce violence in Reading by five percent by 2014. During this same time, HFI continued to tirelessly knock on the doors of anyone willing to listen to the vision of the YMI and remained hopeful for the possibility of financial support.
Facing declines in funding and interest, the YMI finally gained starting ground when HFI received a gracious $35,000 grant from St. Joseph Medical Center in the spring of 2012. With this support, HFI was finally able to take the YMI program from the storyboard to the stage. For eight weeks, 50 youth, 14 to 18 years in age, were placed in a positive learning environment at Kutztown University, where they received instruction in various skills of filmmaking and production. Ten Reading-based nonprofit organizations, including Berks Women in Crisis and the Council on Chemical Abuse, presented their missions and values to the students. YMI students subsequently created passionate and informative PSAs related to the relevant social issues facing Reading and their social community that, while locally based, have global application.
“If one of these PSA’s reaches someone globally or in our own backyard and saves someone, we’ve accomplished our goal,” Craddolph explains.
Students were instrumental in each part of the production process, from brainstorming and writing to creating storyboards to acting in each PSA. They were given the opportunity to work with industry professionals, such such as Gill, Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer, and Reading Police Department Chief William Heim, and gained collaboration and critical analysis skills. The YMI gave its students a space and outlet through which to grow as young individuals, establish a passion for community involvement, and gain a confidence that is crucial for developing professional capabilities and self-development. The Reading Eagle and 69 News Channel both featured stories throughout the duration of the YMI.
As of March 2013, the 20 public service announcements produced by the YMI participants are currently undergoing professional editing and sound engineering. Once perfected, they will be featured in a 60-day online film competition hosted exclusively on the HFI website. The public will be able to view and vote on its favorite student-produced PSA, and the top three winning teams will share a $10,000 scholarship.
HFI is working diligently to continue expanding the YMI and ultimately taking it to every city in need of positive transformation. To ensure the future of the Youth Media Initiative and to help us continue to inspire and empower youth, please consider donating to our cause.