By Shine Salt
UNITY Student Reporter
In a room filled with tables and computers, Trevor tells his advance high school students sitting behind each system about their video and audio final projects. He emphasizes the importance of linking the background music to their story.
“There are some students that come in and their main thing is they want to be in film or they want to create or do audio,” said Trevor Gahona, the instructor for SPOT 127. “The other students come here because they want something new and fresh to do, those are the ones really coming in with no experience. They don’t want to do a sport, they don’t want to do cheerleading or something like that. They want to create something, and they want it to be visually pleasing or audio pleasing.”
Gahona walked into the next room—a newsroom media lab, where a group of beginner students are learning how to design their visual storytelling.
“What does social media mean to you?” One student read her topic questions aloud about addiction with social media. “How many hours do you spend on social media?”
SPOT 127 is a non-profit youth media center. It offers free after-school and summer programs to students from various Phoenix area high schools. The program provides hands-on training in digital photography, video and audio production, and social media. It’s aimed at low-income and at-risk teenagers. The students learn how to create stories in multiple-media platforms.
Students choose the story they want to create, and often they’re contentious story ideas. Some of the projects have gained financial support from organizations to produce campaign videos. Among those is the Hickey Family Foundation. It contributed to a project 17-year-old Gisselle Loera is working on. Her story is about human trafficking and she interviewed a young woman about her experience.
“Going into something like human trafficking I knew I had to be very mature about it,” said Loera. “Before we started anything I asked her, ‘I don’t want to push you, and how okay are you with me asking you certain questions about your personal life or about your experience?’ I was trying to make sure that she was comfortable. Hearing what she said, which were worrisome and gruesome details, I never freaked out about it because I was interested in going through the interview process to learn.”
Many of the young reporters have received compliments for their media coverage of youth issues. Loera’s campaign video about human trafficking will soon be shown in Scottsdale Harkins Theaters.
The students are learning the basic techniques of audio-visual reporting, and are expected to become proficient with programs like Adobe Premiere Pro, an audio editing system.
SPOT 127 is part of and created through the collaboration of Friends of Public Radio Arizona, Rio Salado College and KJZZ 91.5 FM Public Radio. The youth media center developed the Korva Coleman Excellence Awards, which recognizes the youths’ work. Winners receives a $1,000 scholarship.
Four SPOT 127 graduates will also have a chance to receive the Carstens Family Funds Scholarship. The scholarship covers the total cost of attending any of the Maricopa Community Colleges.
UNITY: Journalists for Diversity and several national and local journalists visited SPOT 127 as part of the organization’s 2016 Regional Media Summit kick-off. About two dozen high school students talked with journalism professionals and fellow panelists about pursuing a career in the industry. The students also shared their year-end video projects for feedback. The event closed with a networking reception sponsored by the north Phoenix restaurant Stumpy’s Pizza and Subs.