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St. Croix Teen Attends Hollywood Filmmaking Workshop

Dec. 20, 2004 – A St. Croix teen got a unique opportunity this month to travel to California to take part in a youth-centered national digital media workshop. The West Coast workshop trained more 200 teens from all over the United States in media production skills so they can tell their stories through film. Sixteen-year-old Oreese O'Reilly and Unity Coalition Project Coordinator Joyce Brown attended the seminar, held in the heart of Hollywood.
Brown sent in a grant application for the "Tell It Like It Is 2004: Target Hollywood National Youth Media Justice Digital Storytelling Workshop" as part of Unity’s mandate to affect social change in the island’s youth. Brown said she was excited that her application was accepted to be part of this program. She chose O'Reilly, the public relations specialist of Unity's 12-member teen board, to accompany her.
Brown and her teens gathered cultural items reflecting life on St. Croix to use in the video production. "We brought calypso and reggae music, archival and recent photos and books by local authors, among other things," Brown said. "We achieved our goal," she said, speaking of the theme of the video and what they wanted to portray to the public.
"We used the beauty of the island as a backdrop to convey the story of the people; the eagerness of the youth who are carrying the message of non-violence and the call for the community to get involved," Brown said. "Our small community has challenges but we are able to overcome – we don't have all the answers and we are open to suggestions."
During the six-day workshop the youth were given the training to create their own three- to five-minute videos. Coordinators gave the youth instruction in the basics of scripting a movie, camera and interview basics, Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro computer software.
The final production is meant to challenge the stereotypical image of teens portrayed by the media – painting youth as criminals and functional illiterates – giving youth a chance to "tell it like it is."
The final project will be used in the coalition’s upcoming media campaign, Brown said. The St. Croix youth hope to present the video in schools and engage the audience in discussions challenging them to increase their activism and get involved in the community.
The Unity Coalition is a program of The Village, V.I. Partners in Recovery, and seeks to enhance community and governmental collaboration to reduce substance abuse in teens by decreasing risk factors and increase protective factors. Teens on Point program (TOP), administered by the coalition, teaches youth community activism through activities that challenge their analytical and physical skills.
"This is about youth activism and analytical thinking," Brown said. "Youth need the skills to make changes in their life in a responsible way – with their peers, parents and authority figures – no matter what situations they face in school or at home."

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