Chicago youth learn to make movies, stay in school

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Former dropout Tyrese Jackson left Farragut High School at age 17,
served a brief time in jail and then enrolled in an alternative school
the next year.

Taking part of in a film class gave him a better way to spend his
time, he says. “Now I don’t like being around people who have me doing
negative things,” says Tyrese, who is now a junior at the Academy of
Scholastic Achievement.

Former dropout Tyrese Jackson left Farragut High School at age 17, served a brief time in jail and then enrolled in an alternative school the next year.

Taking part of in a film class gave him a better way to spend his time, he says. “Now I don’t like being around people who have me doing negative things,” says Tyrese, who is now a junior at the Academy of Scholastic Achievement.

The film class, offered through the Community TV Network, also was a way for him to learn how to communicate his feelings. “I just want everyone to understand what I’m saying, understand where I’m coming from,” says Tyrese. He narrated the Academy’s film, School or the Streets?, with a poem about the importance of making smart decisions because life is short. 

The film was among the 38 entries for the third annual Chicago Youth Community Film Festival, titled “A Reel Look at their Neighborhoods.” Community TV Network, http://www.ctvnetwork.org/ a non-profit that provides Chicago youth with training in film and multimedia production, co-hosted the festival with the Alternative Schools Network.

The festival, which showcased the 38 short films from 11 alternative schools, gives students the opportunity to learn how to produce, direct, edit and act in a film.

“For city kids, it gives them a new tool that is very important in our culture,” says Denise Zaccardi, executive director of Community TV Network. These skills can also help students get into college, she adds.

The class also motivates some students “to stay in school and come to school more frequently,” says Joe Riina-Ferrie, a video instructor for Community TV who teaches five classes at the Academy of Scholastic Achievement. “It gives them the chance to do something they would never be able to do (otherwise),” Riina-Ferrie says.

Cornedra Jackson, also a junior in Riina-Ferrie’s class, left Chicago when she was 16 and enrolled in the Academy when she returned to the city at age 18. She worked on a film that aims to send a message to young teens that they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up against domestic violence. “[The film] gave me an opportunity to help young girls,” Cornedra says.  “It taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid to express myself. It has given me confidence.”

Eleven films won first-place awards in 11 different categories.

“People like me never get anything like this, so it’s very important,” says Tyrese.

To see a sample reel of last year’s films, visit http://reellook.blip.tv/.