Note: all the images in this post are from programs in 2018 and 2019, before the pandemic.
In part 1 of this series, we met Steve Douglass, an instructor in the Chicago metropolitan area who teaches high school kids about media literacy and video content creation. He started his twenty-year career in education after a 1.5-year stint cutting sports highlights for ESPN. After a personal reflection of his career, combined with a revelation of existential magnitude due to 9/11, Steve left the ESPN editing suite and headed to the world of education. Along with teachers and students, he helped co-found Chicago Summer Stories and eventually St. Louis Summer Stories. Along with partners like We Make Movies, Apple, and OWC, each program works with kids entering their senior year to tell their personal stories using iPhones and FiLMicPro, and Mac hardware and flash drives donated by OWC.
In this installment, we dive a little bit deeper and learn what these kids are doing and where some of them have gone.
The Stories We Tell
Think back to your high school years. What were the issues you faced? What kind of impact did they have on your life? Were you the book worm sitting in the back of the cafeteria reading your favorite classic for the third time? Did you and your friends play D&D in Mr. Smith’s chemistry lab during lunch? Or were you hanging out with the jocks in the quad? Were you lonely or loved by all? Whatever your story, chances are, most of you reading this didn’t have the tools to tell that story in HD video and high-quality audio. What if you could? What impact do you think that would have had on your life?
The kids who participate in Chicago and St. Louis Summer stories are in essence, documentarians, telling their stories and in some cases, even client stories. The only limit to what they create is their imagination. There are no words that can express the power of putting an iPhone loaded with FiLMic Pro and connected to a professional mic in the hands of a junior or senior.
“FiLMiC Pro was a total game-changer for all of them,” said Steve. “They were like, ‘What? I don’t need to buy a digital SLR anymore?’ And they were creating incredible stuff visually, but the most important thing we were focused on, was the story; and the way they interacted. That collaboration is so essential.”
In that first year, the kids in Chicago were dealing with the protests after the shooting of Harith Augustus as well as general anti-gun violence demonstrations. Imagine being a 16-year-old in the thick of that, iPhone in hand, documenting the havoc and harrowing cries. Then going back and editing your footage on Final Cut Pro.
In order to make this program work, equipment was needed. Due to logistical issues caused by the pandemic, the program was woefully short. That’s where OWC stepped in and provided not only 500 GB Envoy Pro Mini flash drives, but also refurbished MacBook Pros. These opportunities have literally been life-changing for these kids.
“Two years later we’re still dealing with the same significant racial and significant cultural issues that we were working on in Chicago. And these guys are plugged into the neighborhoods and come from the neighborhoods they were protesting in, and just a couple of months ago I looked up and saw one of our kids from the program, leading the recovery efforts in Lawndale, one of the hardest his, left-behind communities in Chicago. That is amazing. We wanna prepare for kids being leaders.”
Starting in St. Louis
The success in Chicago is what led to the start of the program in St. Louis, and Steve was able to partner with another Apple distinguished educator, Don Goble. For the program in St. Louis, they were able to add two amazing partners: Mercy Hospital and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Don and Steve connected with Joe Pfeiffer, the Cardinals alumni relations director, with the idea of having the St. Louis Summer Stories kids tell the stories of kids who went through the cancer treatment center of Mercy and come out on the other side.
Much like the diversity of students they went for in Chicago, they did the same in St. Louis. “St. Louis is very segmented,” Steve explained. “Probably one of the worst in the country. So we very purposefully wanted to bring kids from city, to suburbs; public to private [schools], and it was really cool.”
No doubt one of the highlights of the program was being able to also meet and work with famed Cardinal alum and Baseball Hall of Famer, Ozzie Smith. They’re continuing to work with the Cardinals to get the kids’ work shown, both in person and on social media. They are also going to have the student work/story aired on the Cardinals’ produced show Cardinals Insider, which airs on Fox Sports Midwest, this spring.
“Chance” for a Better Future
Both programs are proving to have profoundly positive impacts on the kids involved. After only a few weeks work, they come back entirely different people. They become leaders and community organizers. The city of the Chicago story kids have started their own production company. Another is traveling the country working with Chance the Rapper’s Youth empowerment charity Social Works. OWC is proud to have played a significant role helping these two fantastic programs. Steve encapsulated the two programs perfectly: “We’re giving kids opportunities to not only change their world, but the world.”
Steve is now in a position to take the program beyond the Midwest. “We have a really good model that we’ve refined over the years. With the right person to connect with the right person in a community, we can partner with them and give these students opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.