Using media as its hook, the Youth Media Workshop connects African-American young people to their elders to gather the rich stories of their community and turn them into digital objects that can be used to create social change and inspire academic achievement and social responsibility.
The YMW is an after-school program and a collaborative partnership between Illinois Public Media, project founder, William Patterson, Ph.D. a.k.a. “Dr. P,” local school districts, youth-serving organizations and area libraries and museums.
Community members, who are the living keepers of the community’s history, volunteer to be resources to students and teachers in “The Well of Knowledge.” Participant Cedric interviews Diane Nesbitt Students in middle school and high school are recruited by teachers to spend their academic year interviewing members of The Well about a topic of interest to them. The students create radio and TV documentaries and videos for the Internet that tell stories based on those interviews.
Teachers are trained during the summer by Illinois Youth Media to use the technology and then guided throughout the year as they work with students.
Dr. Patterson who grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois with a doctorate in Educational Policy Studies founded the Workshop in 2000. “In today’s multi-media environment, young people, particularly, African-American youth of the Hip Hop Generations too often define themselves based on inaccurate information about the history of themselves, their family and community,” Dr. P said. “I developed the YMW to teach young people of the African-American community how to develop multi-media projects that would provide them with a living reflection of self identity to learn and archive the history of their family as well as their community.”
Edison Middle School participants from Year 7 of the Youth Media Workshop, taken at WILL
Illinois Public Media became the institutional home for the YMW in 2003 when Dr. P approached the station. “The Youth Media Workshop is modeled after the work of the Participants Mecca and Anna learning to use the cameras Childrens’s Television Workshop,” Dr. PP said. “My goal was to establish a relationship with WILL to expand the scope of the Youth Media Workshop to create documentaries about the history of the local African-American community, but to also form new pedagogy that teachers could use to engage African-American youth in an innovative way.”
The long-term goal of the workshop is for young people to understand the significance of their history in order to pass it on to future generations to build better communities, to build stronger points of self-esteem and stronger identities and to be agents for change in society and mass media.