by Claire Miller
Five high school students from Atlanta, Jackson, Miss., and New York City spent a week in July learning more about leadership, civic engagement and video production from staff in the College of Education's Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence as part of the 2012 Fellows Institute.
The week-long institute is one component of Beyond the Bricks, a national community engagement initiative dedicated to "increasing educational and social outcomes for school age black males," according to the program's website. During the school year, program participants brainstorm solutions to the challenges they face in their communities, examine their roles as leaders and analyze how the media communicates with the general public.
During the institute, Beyond the Bricks students, referred to as "community producers," built upon those skills by attending sessions on filmmaking and production, participating in a ropes course in Alpharetta and taking a trip to the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta.
Kahni Wilkes, an institute participant and rising high school senior from Harlem, New York, said he particularly enjoyed the video editing sessions and looks forward to applying those skills to future video projects.
"I really liked the hands-on training we got," he said. "With video production, we've learned how to integrate our thoughts about life into our work."
Ouida Washington and Derek Koen, Beyond the Bricks founders and co-executive directors who led some of the institute's sessions, said Beyond the Bricks is designed to bring together students from different parts of the country to learn from each other's experiences and start a dialogue about the roles they play in their neighborhoods.
"We recognize that there's a need to address the issues these young men face and to hear their stories, and that became our charge," Washington said. "It makes a tremendous impact on people to be able to see their stories on film. I hope these students go back to their communities and use what they've learned here to effect change."
Brian Williams, director of the Crim Center, said his staff has worked for about a year to bring Beyond the Bricks to Georgia State University, which will serve as a new site for the program starting this fall.
"We'll bring in 10 high school students from the metro-Atlanta area and start teaching them how to use cameras and how to tell a story through video imagery and editing," he explained. "Beyond the Bricks is really about empowering young African American men to have a voice."
For more information about the Beyond the Bricks Project, visit http://beyondthebricksproject.com. To learn more about the Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence, visit http://education.gsu.edu/cuee.