A group of four teenage boys sits around a computer fixated on the monitor. A sudden burst of laughter ensues as they move away from the computer revealing at a stuffed animal squirrel and the terrified face of one of the teenaged boys on the screen.
This is all from a short film they have created with the help of their Teledramatic Arts and Technology (TAT) service learning mentors. This service learning class, taught by TAT professor Steven Levinson, works with various partnerships throughout Monterey County. The class is divided into groups, usually two members in size. They are then shown a list of partnerships they can work with. After choosing, the group members meet up with the organization sponsors to set up a time and see if the schedule coincides with their own. After all the necessary paperwork is filled up the students get to meet the adolescents they will be teaching.
Michael Hale, senior, TAT, works with an organization called First Tee. Hale acknowledges his role is to bring to his students an awareness of the media. “It’s entertainment, not a way of life,” stated Hale. The main goal of the TAT service learning program is to teach the adolescents the fundamentals of film making. They also teach the eager youth how to interpret and analyze the media: to learn how media affects them.
The adolescents are given the full experience of producing a film on their own. “They come up with the stories and have a live sense of what a production is like. Service learners are just here to supervise and answer questions they might have,” said Hale.
The group with the squirrel theatrics is from an organization called South Monterey County Arts and Technology, or SOMOCAT for short. This particular group consists of juveniles from middle schools and high schools in south Monterey County.
Lindsey Wallraff and Andy Steiner, both TAT seniors, work with this group of adolescents who meets on the Cal State Monterey Bay campus near the TAT building. “It is easier to teach someone where you were taught,” stated Steiner. Both agree that choosing to work with this group of kids was a no-brainer due to the location. “There is more security, for sure, here. It is a safe location and it’s on the weekends,” added Steiner.
As far as the students, Wallraff is amazed by the talent and ideas of the group’s project and the way they “bounce” ideas off one another. The children seem enthralled by their work. One of the students from the SOMOCAT group was enthusiastic about the film he and his group put together since he always wanted to make films. “My favorite part was the filming process: new ideas,... strategies about lighting and sound, the works,” stated Angel Saldana.
“You get to know the kids’ personality throughout the process,” stated Wallraff. “You form relationships with the children throughout the weeks,” added Hale.