Potential nonprofit hopes to connect students with city youth

by Rebecca Szkutak / Beacon Staff • March 25, 2015

1427340891 img 6819.jpg

Sophomore Xia Rondeau has a passion for youth—and for helping teenagers to engage in creative mediums that they’re not getting access to at their high schools, such as film. 

When Rondeau was a high schooler at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, she was enrolled in an after-school media education program run through Cambridge’s public access television channel.

Rondeau, an interdisciplinary major, said participating in it was a major reason she ended up at Emerson, and she now hopes to bring this opportunity to other teenagers through a similar program that she hopes to launch in Los Angeles.

“You gain a ton of professional skills, technical skills, [and] personal relationship skills,” Rondeau said. “Most importantly, you get to see a new creative future.”

She said it would be taught and run mainly by students, and only assisted by professors. Rondeau said she envisions this as a way for Emerson students to not only practice the skills they have learned—like screenwriting and using film and editing equipment—but also to teach them to local youth.

The Cambridge Community Television’s Youth Media Program has been around for years and is open to any teenagers who are curious about media. Rondeau said she found out about the program through a friend. It runs both after school and during the summer.

It teaches teenagers the ins and outs of making a film, according to Shaun Clarke, an Emerson visual and media arts professor and a former coordinator for the program.

Recently, high school students have, on their own, written and produced videos on basketball, skateboarding, and sustainability using knowledge they learned from Cambridge Community Television’s youth in media program, according to its website.

“There is also a media literacy component to it, learning how to not only make but also consume media [and be] more critical and aware of what they’re looking at,” Clarke said. “It’s not something they are getting in school.”

Rondeau said the organization allowed kids access a field that most people wouldn’t get to enter until college, which inspired her to begin this project.

She said she is talking to Cambridge’s program leaders and former professors to learn about how to launch this type of organization and how to market it to community members. Hoping to launch it by the time she’s a senior, Rondeau estimated it would cost $200,000 for equipment and other expenses.

Emerson’s Los Angeles would be the best location to get it started, Rondeau said, because of its large physical space. Once the program starts there, Rondeau said she hopes to launch an analogous organization in Boston.

“I don’t see enough engagement in Boston between the city and Emerson students,” said Rondeau. “[Participants could say] ‘I can actually take ownership over my own skills, while working with kids who don’t have the same skills that I do.’”

Rondeau said she is motivated by giving underprivileged teenagers the opportunities and resources to tell their own stories.

“This is really not a project about me,” Rondeau said. “This is a project for other people that needs other people. It’s not something that anyone’s name is going to go on—it’s not for anyone to claim or take ownership of—it’s a group effort.”