digital storytelling workshopS

With Teens In

Foster Care

**To protect the privacy & identity of the teens in care, their faces and full names are not included in any of the films. 

In Texas, only 3 percent of teens in foster care graduate from a 4-year university, despite access to free tuition at a Texas public university. There are significant challenges that negatively affect the academic performance of kids in care, most of which are beyond their control. They face many barriers that make college seem inaccessible or undesirable.

 

I want to demystify college and lower barriers by inviting teens in care to explore campus in a fun and relaxed environment. Our campus is only a mile away from where they live, they are our neighbors and I want them to know this is a public university and they are part of that public. By partnering with actual college students the teens gain new perspectives on what college looks like, the kinds of courses they can take, and the opportunities on campus.

The workshop is intended to provide a space for teens in foster care to share their stories; media is merely the vehicle through which they can do that. They partnered with UNT students to create a short media piece of the their choice. UNT students help participants to think critically about the kind of story they wanted to share, who their audience is, and how they can effectively and powerfully communicate their message. They are encouraged to "speak back" to negative stereotypes and to share their experiences and stories.

Each day of the workshop participants learn about various aspects of media literacy and are encouraged to think about how their own experiences, perspectives, and stories are portrayed in mainstream media.

Although media are full of stories about young people, rarely are teens provided opportunities to speak for themselves. Teens typically only appear on the news when they are either the victim of a crime or they have committed a crime.

 

Within narrative film and television, teens are typically represented in ways that do not reflect the actual lived experiences of most young people. These limited and dismissive representations are even more significant for teens in the foster care system who are consistently marginalized within society and are invisible or silenced within media.

Participants learn how to write scripts and storyboards and then use professional production equipment to produce their films. Each piece is unique and creatively reflects the individual interests, talents, and perspectives of the teens who worked on the projects.

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