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Lights, camera, action

Under the guidance of Lehigh's SummerSERVE volunteers, children from the Lakota tribe in South Dakota wrote, shot and edited their own films.

Students from Lehigh University’s SummerSERVE 2007 program taught kids at the Sioux YMCA in Dupree, South Dakota the ins and outs of making movies earler this summer.

The 10 Lehigh volunteers journeyed to the Sioux YMCA, the only YMCA on a Native American reservation, as a component of the Community Service Office’s SERVE programs, which facilitate service trips all over the country allowing students to build partnerships and gain awareness of the many needs in our country.

While completing reading and math activities are beneficial to the students on the reservation, Hidayah Amin, a Fulbright scholar and a 2007 master’s degree recipient in Instructional Technology from the College of Education, wanted to open the children’s eyes to the world of video technology and filmmaking.

“Filmmaking allows the children to have fun and be creative,” Amin says, “They won’t realize that they will acquire other important skills while producing their own short clips. Most of the children at the reservation are shy and reserved and filmmaking is a good outlet for them to express themselves and their ideas.”

Prior to coming to the United States, Amin worked as a media producer with the Education Technology Division of the Ministry of Education in Singapore and used this experience to explain the process of making a movie, the importance of storyboarding, the roles of each participants and most importantly how to use a camera.

“The reservation is located in a very isolated area. Naturally, the kids have also been isolated from much modern technology. For some, this was their first time holding a camera,” says Lisa Kobayashi ’08, another volunteer on the trip.

When rain almost shut down the film site, the students pushed forward to complete the projects in record time. For three days, three groups of kids single-handedly wrote scripts, selected shooting locations, shot the movie using a digital video camera and edited their films using MacBook and iMovie, while adding transitions, captions and credits.

With intricate stories and strict attention to detail, it’s hard to tell the students have no background in Hollywood.

“I was very impressed at how each story came together, they were all so different,” Kobayashi says. “One group had this creative plot showing how one person’s callous actions can cause a chain of people to hurt others. I thought it was genius for their age.”

Boosting their self-esteem

The students experienced a taste of the Academy Awards when their films were showcased at the Sioux YMCA. Doting volunteers, parents and students took the place of the paparazzi as students won books and Lehigh gifts in place of golden statuettes.

“It is important to show their work as it helps boost their confidence and self-esteem. Children must always be encouraged and praised especially when they deserve it,” Amin says.

Lisa Catullo, currently pursuing a master’s degree in secondary education and serving as the graduate assistant for the Community Service Office, said the important part of these trips are truly listening to the voice of the community and answering their needs.

“The community voice said that the members of the Lakota tribe needed college-aged students to come into the community and inspire and motivate the youth, expose them to college life as an option, and listen to and be witnesses to their oral history so we can return to our own communities and share what we witnessed and what we saw and heard” Catullo says.

The students involved in the project had their own surprise for the Lehigh volunteers, using their newly acquired skills to create a video that documented their town and included interviews and a behind the scenes tour.

“It’s exactly what we had hoped would come out of the project,” Kobayashi says.

--Madelyn King

Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

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