POMEROY — Students at Meigs High School finished the documentaries they produced in partnership with WOUB Public Media by putting together a premiere event of sorts.
On Tuesday, May 18, the students presented their films created as part of WOUB’s Our Ohio project to WOUB Producer/Director Evan Shaw, Community Engagement Manager Cheri Russo and Educational Services Manager Deborah Brewer, as well as many school administrators.
“It was so wonderful to see the final films presented this way,” said Shaw. “The students were proud of their work and really grew through the process.”
The short films were supported by an Our America: Documentary in Dialogue grant from American Documentary | POV, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The grant supported community engagement activities around a documentary called Portraits and Dreams which included virtual screening events with several local high schools throughout the region, including Meigs, and allowed the students to create their own films.
Shaw held virtual storytelling workshops with the students throughout the school year, helping them to think about their personal story and the story they want to tell in their film.
“What’s great about this project is that the short films are from the perspective of a high school student in our region during these challenging times,” said Shaw. “Many times, our Appalachian region is portrayed with negative stereotypes in the national media. This was an opportunity for our young people to take control of that narrative and tell their story and the story of their community authentically.”
The film Portraits and Dreams helped the students think about Appalachian stigma and cultural pride. It revisits photographs created by Kentucky schoolchildren in the 1970s and the place where the photos were made. The film is about the students, their work as visionary photographers and the lives they have led since then, as well as the linkage of personal memory to the passage of time. The film is directed by Wendy Ewald and Elizabeth Barret.
After the students saw the documentary, they had the opportunity to participate in a virtual panel discussion with the film’s producers and local community leaders to talk about the film and discuss what kinds of stories they might tell about their own community.
“At its core, the Portraits and Dreams film is about our culture and the people who are a part of it,” said Russo. “We loved how the documentary showed the children telling the story of their roots and culture through photography, and we thought it would be a great documentary to show to local high school students to give them the ability to tell their own stories.”
WOUB worked with students in English and multimedia classes at Logan High School, South Gallia High School and Meigs High School throughout the academic year.
WOUB’s Learning Lab also held a virtual teacher professional development storytelling workshop with Shaw that was open to all teachers in the region and across the state.
“I loved that we were able to connect these students with actual film makers and give them opportunities to work together. Because most of our schools are small, they often don’t have the same opportunities that students in larger schools do,” said Brewer. “I feel like we were able to bring new, authentic learning experiences to these schools, and we saw that we have a lot of talented students and teachers. We hope to be able to do more collaborative projects with schools in many different curriculum areas.”
Information provided by WOUB.