The Creative Media Design Academy, based at the Union Baptist Church in Hartford, CT is described as a unique and special summer experience. Its mantra as stated in the initials: Community, Mentorship, Development, and Achievement. Trevor Beauford, Church Pastor, teamed up with Matthew Rivera, Program Manager, to develop and implement this initiative in its first summer based on a need for youth programming during Covid-19. Students did not have access to nearly as many summer programs and summer employment opportunities as they had in prior years. Staff reached out to the Hartford Public Schools, organizations and social media to recruit students for the program and gained parental permissions for them to participate.
The Academy goals:
- Strengthen youth’s educational aspirations towards college and careers.
- Expose youth to digital media experiences and training.
- Introduce students to college and university mentors.
- Provide employment and leadership development of college students in the community who had lost internships or employment opportunities for the summer.
Currently, 22 middle and high school students are enrolled at the Academy. Professionals teach them photography, videography and graphic design via zoom. Youth receive two sessions of instruction virtually each week for 10 weeks. The program uses Adobe Creative Cloud software. Students may use available video cameras but in order to do so, they go to the church one at a time and follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing. The Academy aims to use software positively to engage students through social media and to encourage pursuit of digital media full time in the future.
Each student has been assigned a college mentor who is paid to work with the youth. The seven mentors call them weekly, work on life skills, elevator speeches, job readiness training and setting SMART goals. Emmanuel Augstin is the coordinator that oversees mentoring. The mentors received training through The Governor’s Prevention Partnership to prepare them for the mentoring experience and completed a criminal background check. Academy staff check in with the mentors weekly and discuss their own leadership. Mentors will sign a termination agreement when the program ends.
Program Manager, Rivera commented “It has been amazing to see how engaged students are when we match them with professionals. They continually ask questions that allow the professionals to teach innovative ways to engage with the software.” When the program ends next week, staff hopes that some of the students who have spent a meaningful summer at the Academy can be rolled into other programs at the Church.