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Unity Project Presenting Teens As They Are


Dec. 7, 2004 – Unity Coalition Project coordinators Joyce Brown and 16-year-old Oreese O’Reilly set off for California Tuesday to take part in a youth-centered digital media workshop. The workshop will train teens from all over the United States in media production skills, so they can tell their story through film.
Brown sent in a grant application for the "Tell It Like It Is 2004: Target Hollywood National Youth Media Justice Digital Storytelling Workshop" as part of Unity's mandate to affect social change in the island's youth. "We sent in the application and we were accepted," said Brown, speaking from her office on Monday. "We were so excited, especially Oreese." O'Reilly is the public relations officer of Unity's 12-member junior advisory board.
Brown and her teens gathered cultural items reflecting life on St. Croix to use in the video production. "We are bringing calypso and reggae music, archival and recent photos and books by local authors, among other things," Brown said.
Brown and O'Reilly have a distinct idea of what the video will portray. "We want to use the beauty of the island to convey the story of the people, the eagerness of the youth carrying the message of nonviolence and the call for the community to get involved," Brown said. "Our small community has challenges but we are able to overcome. We don't have all the answers and we are open to suggestions."
During the four-day workshop, youth will be trained in creating their own three- to five-minute video. Coordinators will give the youth instruction in the basics of scripting a movie, camera and interview basics, and exposure to Photoshop and Final Cut Pro software. The final productions should challenge the stereotypical image of teens portrayed by the media – painting youth as criminals and illiterates. The projects give youth a chance to "tell it like it is."
The final product will be used in the coalition's upcoming media campaign. The St. Croix youth hope to present the video in schools and engage the audience in discussions challenging them to increase their activism and get involved in the community.
The Unity Coalition, a program of The Village and V.I. Partners in Recovery, seeks to enhance community and governmental collaboration to reduce substance abuse in teens by decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors. Teens on Point, administered by the coalition, teaches youth community activism through activities that challenge youth's analytical and physical skills.
"This is about youth activism and analytical thinking," Brown said. "Youth need the skills to make changes in their life in a responsible way – with their peers, parents and authority figures – no matter what situations they face in school or at home."
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