MAPS Media Institute


MAPS Media Institute

The Irwin and Florence Rosten Foundation, Inc.
515 Madison Street
Hamilton, MT 59840
Phone: 406.381.7230

Focus: Media Arts

Annual Number Participating: 150

Ages: 12–17

Annual Budget: $255,000

Partners: Bitterroot College; Montana Campus Compact; Montana Film Office; Montana GEAR UP; Montana Office of the Governor; Salish Kootenai College; University of Montana

Funders: Browning Kimball Foundation; Greater Montana Foundation; High Stakes Foundation; Jane S. Heman Foundation, Inc.; Montana Arts Council; Montana Office of Public Instruction; The Steele-Reese Foundation

Envision a backdrop of snowcapped mountains bordered by clear blue skies, fronted by a band rocking out to their own songs, alongside a rustling tree-lined stream. You just glimpsed into the life of a Ravalli County teenager, courtesy of Montana’s MAPS Media Institute (MAPS). By telling perceptive, vivid stories filled with humor and sensitivity, MAPS students’ films literally seem to leap off the screen and draw you in. Some have even garnered Awards of Excellence (Student Emmy Awards) from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Northwest Chapter.

In rural communities and on Native American Reservations where arts opportunities are limited, MAPS keeps underserved youth not only engaged, but also employed, in some cases. MAPS infuses youth with “reel” life principles and professional experience, balanced with community service.

From September to May, students learn by doing via a curriculum related to science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (STEAM). Twice weekly, for two hours per session, experienced instructors use cutting-edge strategies and equipment to teach courses in film, design, technology, music, and entrepreneurship. Elements of this 32-week program inevitably spill over into students’ daily school routine, successfully merging media arts with Common Core standards with such life skills as teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking. MAPS training extends year-round, through summer programs in Ravalli County and on the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations.

Participants realize the monetary value of their time and talents by earning incentives, bonuses, and cash stipends. Always in demand, these young artists produce high-quality media projects, from print brochures to radio spots and television PSAs that air over local, regional, state, and, occasionally, national airwaves. Likewise, students lend their talents to community service efforts, such as producing documentaries for Meals on Wheels and the No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength initiative, featuring community leaders and activists. In addition to building solid portfolios, these creative opportunities also instill a sense of empathy for and a commitment to helping those in their communities who are less fortunate.

Twice during the school year, MAPS participants must attend one-on-one mentoring and evaluation sessions. At these meetings, each student sets individual goals, and the instructor monitors attendance, overall school success rates, and project work. Assessment results also undergo external tracking, through statewide channels. Collectively, this information helps MAPS staff identify each youth’s personal and professional growth and adapt lesson plans accordingly.

MAPS delivers concrete and versatile skills to underserved public, private, homeschooled, and faith-based students in four school districts countywide and on several of Montana’s Native American Reservations. Although only 60 percent of Ravalli County students attend college, 85 percent of MAPS students pursue higher education. They leave the program better equipped to reach their goals and achieve success in life.

Like anywhere, some Montana kids come from challenging, heartbreaking environments. MAPS helps them find their voice so they can personally experience success and know how to achieve it in the future. It only takes one “yes” to change your life. Be realistic, but demand the impossible.

Peter Rosten Founder, MAPS Media Institute (1949–2017)