Civic Engagement House Videos

Wednesday night I attended the Civic Engagement House video presentation.  Last semester Amy Howard offered her students the option of producing documentaries instead of writing papers.  She was surprised to find that every student opted for the documentary.  Four videos were created with the assistance of Sue McGinnis and Hil Scott.

The videos were a little rough — neither we nor the students were ready for the extent of work that was accomplished — but each of the videos speaks with an authentic voice.  Originally the videos were to be about five minutes long, but each of them was longer than 15 minutes. 

The first video was entitled Youth, Violence and Gangs.  The interviews in this video were fascinating.  One gentleman in particular spoke with experience and authority on the challenges facing youth, and how gangs are the only refuge for so many.

The second video was my favorite.  Entitled Homelessness: It Could Be You, the video took a systemic and personal approach to describe the problem of homelessness.  Experts, including a University of Richmond student volunteer, spoke about the problem of homelessness and society’s indifference towards it.  Plenty of statistics were offered, but it was the individual story, told by the man who lived it, about what it was like to live on the streets of Washington D.C. for three winters and two summers that really connected with me.  The video really did give me a feeling that each of us is just one or two personal disasters away from being homeless. 

The other two videos, Not Just Sticks and Bricks: Affordable Housing in Richmond and Crossover Ministries: Improving Health Care in the Latino Community also explored serious urban issues.

Over the course of the evening, I couldn’t help but think how much more effective these documentaries were compared to the papers that each student might have turned in.  Each video was designed to explore a problem and to urge individuals to do something to improve that situation.  By producing and sharing these documentaries Amy Howard and her class have had a much greater impact on the University of Richmond community, and perhaps on the Richmond community itself, than any traditional research paper might have had. 

Amy seems to have come to the same conclusion.  I know she has spoken with Hil, who plans to help her and her students on the technical aspects next time.  But the videos were used as promotions to recruit students to apply to the Civic engagement House for next year.  Amy has begun a virtuous cycle which I hope grows and grows in the coming years as the University community learns more and does more about the urban issues in our area.

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3 Responses to Civic Engagement House Videos

  1. Gardner says:

    And now the follow-up: when can we see these online? Every virtuous cycle needs a long tail. 🙂

  2. Kevin says:

    We’re working on that. I’m not sure the videos are clear of copyright issues, which is another information fluency issue to tackle. If we can put them up, we will. And I’ll update my entry so you can see.

  3. Gardner says:

    Well, not fair of me to ask a rhetorical question. 🙂 But the sentiment is admirable (i.e., my heart’s in the right place): it’s work worth sharing and I’ll look forward to its publication.

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