For 15 young people in the Kenilworth-Parkside community of Washington, D.C., a summer learning experience provided by the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI) helped to change their lives. Over 29 days and through more than 130 hours of digital instruction and immersion, participants in DCPNI’s first Digital Media Academy took to their community, to classrooms, and to nationally recognized media enterprises in the D.C. metropolitan area to discover new passions, learn marketable skills, meet adult mentors, and set a course for their future success.
DCPNI, one of 12 Promise Neighborhoods implementation sites nationwide, tapped into a rich array of digital and media arts resources in the nation’s capital — from Black Entertainment Television and CNN to the Newseum — to help the young people find their own voices and use them to improve their neighborhood. The students gained valuable creative skills in computer programming and graphic design, coupled with editing videos and music and operating cameras. In the process, they also gained valuable leadership skills, implemented social change through art, and effectively used the media to positively influence their peers.
The students, according to DCPNI Executive Director Ayris Scales, were constantly amazed by new ideas and opportunities, and they shared them in daily journals and local media interviews. Among their favorites experiences were being exposed to Google and exploring the Newseum, as they realized the importance of the media and the fundamentals of working hard while having fun. More importantly, while they created public service announcements on teen pregnancy that encouraged young people to live for their future dreams, the DMA students made important strides toward achieving their own future dreams.
Many of the DMA students now realize how gifted they are and just how bright their futures can be. They graduated from the program, but remain in the hearts of the DCPNI mentors, staff, and professionals who supported them, many of whom said, “It was the best job and best summer I ever had.”