Over the course of four days, from February 18-21, twelve students and two teachers from Merced Union High School District (MUHSD) embarked on a media-focused, but soft skills driven journey. They engaged in workshops which enhanced crucial soft skills such as public speaking, adaptability in team settings, and professional networking. In addition to these soft skills, MUHSD students also received hands-on coaching in video production and digital storytelling. This type of dual exposure prepares the students for the skill sets which they will need to thrive in a collegiate or workplace setting.
Their journey began with an inspiring talk from USC Center for Third Space Thinking fellow, Jaime Carias, who encouraged students to think big and recognize the power of their own story. From there, journalism professor, Vince Gonzalez, expanded the students’ mindsets on careers in media during his workshop. MUHSD students really began to grasp the vast number of career paths that they can pursue in the media landscape, careers ranging from corporate communications specialists to social media storytellers.
The MUHSD students and teachers, then, hit the ground running on their second day, with DSLR camera training. After a lesson on the importance of soft skills, specifically adaptability, the students went off to capture some video footage for their final projects which stemmed from two prompts. The first prompt pushed students to find ways of increasing diversity and inclusion in society for marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community. The second prompt was centered around voting and increasing participation in elections. The 12 students were split up into three groups and the teachers worked together for their final project.
During the third day, they explored the latest storytelling technology on the market in their workshop on virtual reality with Professor Robert Hernandez. This was a huge hit with the students who were amazed at this totally immersive experience. The students even got to take home their own set of 3D glasses and VR kit.
After gathering all of the raw footage for their video projects, the MUHSD students and teachers got some help in post-production from Tom Norris who walked the students through the basics in Premiere Pro. After his lecture, Norris spent some time with each group looking at their projects, answering questions and providing constructive feedback.
MUHSD students combined the soft skills learned during Shellee Smith’s workshop on presentation skills and perfecting their own elevator pitches in the Annenberg Media Center, where they each filmed a 30-second story. Key insights from Smith’s talk centered around understanding your audience and visualizing success.
On the final day, students heard from a panel of current USC undergraduate and graduate students who offered advice on financial aid, staying on top of school courses, adjusting to new environments, and college life in general. During the open discussion, the MUHSD students asked a variety of questions regarding picking a major, getting internships, and more.
When the time finally came, the three groups proudly presented their final projects. Before showcasing their videos, each group walked everyone through their creative process. The students received feedback from program coordinators and fellow classmates. At the end, the students and teachers received a certificate of completion from USC Annenberg, along with many valuable lessons and advice which they will share with their classmates and other educators back home. Merced school administrators tell us the Annenberg Media Institute was an invaluable learning experience for their students and staff and they hope to offer the opportunity to even more students next year.