December 11, 2013 - As the lights dimmed, the seats were filled with ecstatic students and proud parents both eager for the show to begin. The students came from high schools all around the Berks County area to the Alumni Auditorium of Kutztown University to see their PSAs (public service announcements) premiere on the big screen. The top three would soon be sharing in a $10,000 scholarship.
Last fall, these students took part in the Youth Media Initiative, a program created by Haydenfilms Institute. For eight weeks the students were introduced to non-profit organizations in the Reading, Pa. area. The YMI participants then wrote, directed and starred in their own PSAs based on the nonprofits’ missions. The PSAs were uploaded to haydenfilmsinstitute.org and voted on by the public in a PSA Online Film Festival. On this night, the winners would be announced.
After a warm introduction from Hayden Craddolph and Dr. James Ogden of Kutztown University, the festival started with an HFI Agency-produced commercial for the title sponsor: Advantage Point Student Apartments, a new luxury apartment complex coming to Kutztown University. After an interactive Advantage Point commercial and Twitter break with the audience, the PSAs began. The topics ranged across various concerning topics: domestic violence, drug abuse, cutting music programs from schools, defining a disability and many more. They were impressively creative 30-second PSAs filled with entertaining visuals.
Partway through the festival a break was taken to watch Johnny Ray Gill’s original short film Pas De Restes which brought its own message about the gargantuan amount of food wasted in America - a real eye-opener. Before the winners were announced, another, more festival, short film was shown. Once Upon A Christmas Village, directed by Michael Attardi, was a fun magical story about a little decorative village under the Christmas tree coming to life.
At last, the big check was pulled out the envelopes torn open.
In third place, sharing $2,000, was How Much Do You Care About Hunger by:
Brooke Myers (Governor Mifflin Senior High School),
Giulio Tallarico (Yocum Institute for the Arts),
Milan Cephus (Home schooled, Reading Area School District),
Kevin Shimp (Muhlenberg High School)
In second place, sharing $3,000, was Doing Things Differently by:
Sarah Gow (Kutztown High School),
Leia Villegas (Reading High School),
Jose Ortiz (I-Lead Charter School)
In first place, sharing $5,000, was Keep the Color in Our World by:
Stephanie Villegas (Reading High School),
Saniya Daryanani (Muhlenberg High School),
Rosa Harris (I-Lead Charter School),
Keyana Hill (Reading High School)
All the works were wonderful productions and showed how much the students achieved within their short time in the Youth Media Initiative. The imagination and determination of youth can change lives and did just that through these PSAs. Their messages have the power to impact a global audience.