In Bangalore, high school students produce an animation that illustrates what would happen if global warming were reversed. It’s called Ctrl Z (Undo).
In London, an Iranian girl confronts her classroom bullies and rediscovers her cultural identity in an autobiographical documentary titled Leila’s Eyebrow.
In San Jose, students launch a poster campaign to give hope to youth contemplating suicide.
The young people who made these and other media projects hail from 40 countries. While their cultures differ, they have many things in common—the desire to have friends, to be understood, to make a difference, to be heard.
Their voices are rising.
Youth from around the world are sharing stories, aspirations, and visions for the future through Adobe Youth Voices, an international philanthropic initiative launched in 2006 by the Adobe Foundation. This initiative trains educators from classrooms, community organizations, museums, and afterschool programs to guide young people in using media to communicate their views and inspire action. Students create music videos, animations, photography, and print pieces for exhibition online and in their communities.
“To my knowledge, this is one of the largest-scale efforts to promote youth media-making that’s ever been done,” says EDC’s Tony Streit. Since 2006, the program has engaged more than 76,000 youth and 4,000 educators.
EDC works with the Adobe Foundation’s program team to provide training, professional development, and curricular resources—teaching educators how to facilitate purposeful youth media-making. A dozen domestic and international network partners, including the National 4-H Council and the Global Fund for Children, are guided by EDC to deliver the training, either in person or online.
“There’s been a movement over the last 30 years or more to encourage young people to find their voices by creating media,” says Streit. “But it’s work that hasn’t made it into the educational mainstream—it’s mostly facilitated by artists in local settings and very U.S.-centric. Now, with social media, we have the tools to communicate across distances. Youth have an opportunity to influence their peers and the public on important issues as never before.”
Streit continues, “It’s a different landscape where a student in Nepal can create a video today and post it online tomorrow for the whole world to see. Adobe Youth Voices trains educators to teach young people how to use media tools to engage the community in meaningful ways.”
“Adobe Youth Voices is focused on creating relevant and impactful experiences to re-engage youth in learning,” says Adobe Foundation Senior Manager Miguel Salinas, “and EDC has been instrumental in helping us design and implement a program that engages youth in their education and futures.”
Youth perspectives: Universal themes
Students around the world share common experiences, ideals, and aspirations. Respect and discrimination are among the themes explored in Adobe Youth Voices projects, as well as environmental issues, living in harmony, and taking personal responsibility for your own actions and destiny. A click through some of these projects shows the array of concerns.
EDC’s Wendy Rivenburgh produces content for Adobe Youth Voices Essentials, a recently launched website for educators everywhere that showcases media by the youth participants. “I’m struck by their generosity, compassion, and creativity,” she says. “In this program, youth use media to assert their points of view, and to speak to larger human issues.”
Going global: Adding more voices
This August, Adobe Youth Voices will host a summit of more than 100 educators and youth from 24 countries. “Participants will gather in San Jose at Adobe headquarters for a week of in-depth training and collaboration,” Streit says. “Youth attendees will exchange ideas leading up to the event and collaborate on new media projects.”
With renewed commitment from the Adobe Foundation in hand, EDC will continue to help the program grow internationally over the next five years. An expanding train-the-trainer approach will bring more educators into the Adobe Youth Voices network. That means more youth media projects, more youth voices. “The tools are out there for young people to have a voice in what happens in their communities and the world,” Streit says. “We’re helping them see how to make an impact.”
Originally published on July 20, 2011