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Date: Oct 31, 2007
Metropolitan Area Teens Challenged to Document Diversity
World Premiere- Red Carpet Screening of the Student Films
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY – Metropolitan area high school students were challenged to document a culture other than their own as part of an innovative summer program at Hofstra called “Documenting Diversity”. The world premiere of their documentary films will take place at a red- carpet public screening in a community forum on Friday, November 2, 2007 at 7:15 p.m. in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center Theater, located on the North Campus.
The program, which began July 23, and was funded with a grant from the Phil and Monica Rosenthal Foundation , allowed 9 high school students who represent diverse populations to experience what it is like to step inside someone else shoes. The students accompanied their partners through their everyday lives including visits to their homes, schools, religious services and social events with friends while documenting every experience.
While there are many programs that teach young people to express themselves through media, “Documenting Diversity” is unique in that it requires each student to make a film about the life of another participant in the program, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of what it would be like to live that life.
“This is as much about consciousness-raising and education as it is about filmmaking,” said Dr. Sybil DelGaudio, Dean of the School of Communication. “The goal of the program is not only to teach students how to produce short films but also to change their outlooks on other groups through the experience of documenting their lives.”
The documentaries were made using Hofstra’s School of Communication cameras and digital editing software. The students were guided by a team of faculty experts drawn from disciplines such as Film, Video and Sociology.
The “Documenting Diversity” project is sponsored by the School of Communications and The Phil and Monica Rosenthal Foundation.
BIOS OF STUDENT PARTICIPANTS
Aniton, Aaron: A senior from Garden City HS, Aaron is active in sports, theatre and his school’s Jazz Ensemble. He also served as peer educator in the “Safe Horizons Youth Leadership Academy.” From early childhood Aaron showed a propensity to decorate the walls of his house, a passion which he has learned to channel towards graffiti art projects at BOCES. Aaron quotes William Sloane Coffin Jr. in his essay when discussing diversity as one of the “hardest things for a society to live with and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to live without.”
Bindra, Sumeet: A graduating senior from Friends Academy, Sumeet started as a Georgetown University freshman this fall. Sumeet plays in varsity tennis and has been active in diversity awareness campaigns, the Youth Service Opportunity Program and various other outreach programs. She writes about her struggles growing up in a Sikh-American family and not being allowed to be “like everyone else.” She has slowly come to have a more nuanced understanding of her heritage, family and its natural tilt to community service. She credits her trip to a “People of Color” conference in Dallas with helping her aim to become a leader in her community and to understand other communities better.
Cohen, Jared: A junior from Great Neck South HS, Jared has worked in theater and television production and enjoys editing and location shoots. If there is one thing that he feels changed him forever, it is his joining the theater group at his school. He finds the world of theater “fascinating” and believes that he has “grown as a person” due to his time spend acting and trying to be in the shoes of another character. Jared describes his neighborhood as comprising mostly Jewish and Asian-Chinese families. While he does not know enough about Asian religion or culture, he would someday like to expand his understanding.
Danieli, Elizabeth: A junior from Syosset HS, Elizabeth belongs to S.A.D.D., the “Association of Creative Thespians,” and has attended digital film classes at New York Film Academy. In her essay, she describes her Italian-American ethnicity as having a “large influence” on her identity. The child of first-generation Italian immigrants, Elizabeth speaks Italian at home and visits her family in Italy every year. She writes about where she lives now as being perhaps as diverse as her earlier neighborhood in Queens, though a lot quieter!
Khan, Bilal: A senior from Brooklyn Tech HS, Bilal belongs to the “Young Entrepreneur Association” that recently helped raise funds for children with autism. He also participated in “Unity in the Community” where he along with other LI kids spend a day planting a garden at a Nursing home. Bilal credits his parents as the most influential people in his life; he inherits values of hard work and respect from them and above all, a sense of “changing the environment I live in.” He writes that he possesses a natural intuition of “knowing what is acceptable and what isn’t.”
Ojo, Oluwatobi: A sophomore from Hempstead HS, Oluwatobi was born and raised in Nigeria. She grew up to learn that “not everyone can be fortunate.” Brought up in a strong Christian family, her religion has inspired her to “listen to others when they need an ear and to lend a hand when they need it as well.” She belonged to the Law Club in middle school and helped paint the courtroom while there.
Petrauskas, Jessica: A junior from Valley Stream Central HS, Jessica holds membership in the Student Council, Tri-M Music Honor Society and participates in various sports at her school. She calls her extended family, “all 74 of them,” as her best friends in life, on whom she relies for both inspiration and values. She wonders how students in her school formed into cliques and when they separated from being cohesive kindergarteners. In her opinion, negative experiences of the “other” can quickly translate into stereotypes which in turn lead to lines of separation. Perhaps eliminating and getting past the “physical, visual aspect” of knowing people, she writes, may help get rid of such stereotypes.
Schwartz, Emily: A junior from Syosset HS, Emily enjoys writing for the school newspaper and helping raise money for charitable organizations in the community. Emily was brought up in a single-parent family and credits her Mom as “my role model, my hero and my strength.” Family is a major influence in her life and she describes how despite growing up in a Jewish neighborhood, the diversity within her family allowed her to think differently about race, sexual orientation and acceptance.
Vela, Nancy: A senior from Hempstead HS, Nancy plays soccer in school and appreciates the teamwork involved in the sport. She also works as a secretary in a taxi company. Nancy writes about dreaming of becoming a movie actor/director – she believes she is capable of achieving her dreams because she trusts herself and her disciplined intensity. She lives in a diverse neighborhood with Caucasians, African-Americans and El Salvadoreans like her. Despite differences in attitude, she feels her neighbors are united in their respect and loyalty towards their different cultures.