Pick up the front page of the paper, turn on your nightly news program, or scroll up and down your favorite online blog and without a doubt you will find someone addressing one of the current issues in everyday life. Essentially, that is the goal of the media: to target and identify key situations that affect us and our everyday life. Wide Angle Youth Media is doing the same exact thing in Baltimore, except with a twist. There is no story about the Presidential election or the War on Terror, yet there are stories on bullying, education, youth jobs, and personal experiences. Stories about kids, by kids, for everyone.
Working with Baltimore city student’s ages 10 to 20, Wide Angle Youth Media is a non-profit organization that provides its members with opportunities to share their stories and become more actively involved within the community. Founded in a small row home in Hampden in 2000, Wide Angle Youth has grown from a small organization with only 27 kids to a full time operation with 350 kids and five full time employees. In addition to the full time staff, Wide Angle Youth is also blessed with the service of several part time freelancers dedicated to educating the urban community.
As the organization continues to grow in size, their influence grows as well. From 2011- 2012, fifteen different film festivals accepted thirteen of their films from states across the nation. Recycle Man, just one of the many films produced by Wide Angle received Cine Youth’s award for Best Public Service Announcement in the junior division. My Mom’s an Addict won best of the older youth category in the 2011 Gandhi Brigade’s Youth Media Festival. Despite all the success, Wide Angle Youth continues to promote and push Baltimore’s youth to share their stories. Films were recently shown at a Baltimore City Council hearing. “We want to present a youth voice in a predominantly adult based environment,” claimed Susan Malone, Executive Director of Wide Angle Youth.
The goals of the organization are simple and straightforward:
-Introduce critical 21st century learning skills such as media and digital literacy
-Teach skills that are not available through their schools as well as access to media technology they may not otherwise have
-Connect youth to their community through exploration
-Develop workforce readiness skills- including teamwork, creativity, interpreting information, and technical skills
Lendl Tellington is living proof that their system works. A former Wide Angle Youth student, Tellington is now 25 and has produced over 200 films. His company, Sukkatash, has clients all over the east coast fromMiamitoMaine. Tellington thanks WYAM for their assistance and dedication while he was in high school. “Their presence has made me understand the role, I believe, we need to take as human beings to advance as a society,” stated Tellington. He added, “We have to give back in order for our world to be one that’s socially sustainable.” Other graduates of the program have gone on to receive college scholarships and embrace their own individual careers.
What started as just an idea in a small Hampden row house has blossomed into a successful organization. WYAM has partnered with WYPR radio and Channel 77 to help share their stories and goals. The youth of Baltimore have stories and problems like everyone else and thanks to WYAM people are beginning to hear about them.