Next Gen—Bay Area Video Coalition’s youth media arts program—offers hands-on technical training to 14- to 18-year-olds from diverse neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. These 10-month trimester tracks allow students to enter into the fascinating worlds of beginner and advanced video production, beginner and advanced audio engineering, and game coding and design. Students may, and often do, participate in multiple tracks. Some spend more than 140 hours after school, learning not only how to create multimedia art, but also to lead and communicate. These non-technical skills are equally important. And, many of the artist-instructors who interact closely with the teens also strive to impart the leadership abilities that they exhibit in their own communities.
Participants’ success in this nationally recognized youth media program is due, in large part, to student leadership. GEARS—Generating Engaging Art(ists) Reflecting Society—is the student advisory board that helps guide the Next Gen program structure and center the tracks on content that the students find relevant and interesting.
One critical community issue is the focus of a recent project. Next Gen student interns—as well as participants in the game coding, audio, and introduction to video tracks—recognized that gentrification was affecting many Bay Area youth, including the program’s current and potential students. Teens from the various tracks worked with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to interview the youth and record their stories. The students also created a Bay Area map identifying places that still welcome young adults. And, the interactive Bay Area Youth Power Map includes compelling narratives and visuals.
This focus on community and individual storytelling is paramount to the program and engages students in film, music, gaming, and digital design in ways they had not considered before their peer discussions. Currently, students are creating film pieces for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, with a lens on drought and related environmental issues.
Opportunities abound in Next Gen. Students may participate in up to 10 experiential learning technology- and media-focused site visits or field trips. And, within each track, participants receive an additional 12 hours of media-literacy instruction and self-presentation workshops, designed to prepare them for college and career opportunities.
From animation to sound design to cinematography, Next Gen taps into students’ creativity and personal interests, ensuring that they leave with rich portfolios and plans for the future. In 2015 alone, productions by the program’s participants were screened at 29 different film festivals across the country. And, 91 percent of Next Gen graduates enter advanced educational programs or careers related to media arts.
Believing in youth and believing that their voices deserve to be heard—those are very strong elements of the teachers and the teaching that they do.Carol Varney Executive Director, Bay Area Video Coalition