Positivity is contagious. That’s the belief of People’s Liberty Project Grantee Rob Wilson.
Rob’s project, Your Productions, brings together experienced leaders and local youth to create positive social change in the neighborhood of Avondale. Young adults identify issues that impact their communities, research it then produce a Public Service Announcement (PSA)
to raise awareness and promote possibility.
Rob believes there is power in giving young people a voice. We asked him to
reflect on his project so far and share a few lessons he’s learning along the way.
Q. What’s your background?
A. I started in computer engineering. I tripped into a public access television station here
in Cincinnati. When I walked in the door I realized instantly that it wasn’t CNN or CBS. I gave myself two weeks. But then I saw the power of seeing someone who doesn’t think they have the ability to speak be given that power. I fell in love with it. I’ve been working in public access for almost 10 years now.
Q. After the idea to give youth a voice began to form in your head, what steps did you take to see this project come to life?
A. The single most important thing was to not be in a neighborhood where there were already piles of summer camps to choose from. We wanted to expand into a neighborhood where positive change was occurring and be a part of that positive change. Avondale just makes sense. We formed partnerships with Avondale Youth Council and Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation as well as a group of community leaders from the beginning.
We quickly had a place and a community to rally around.
Q. How many students did you have?
A. We had 11 students over the course of two weeks.
Q. Can you describe your experience so far?
A. The youth were very dedicated to the work. They wanted to stay late almost daily.
They were committed to this project and wanted to be there. In the end, the students created four videos centered around the topics of health, littering, immigration and #sayhername. For the #sayhername video we actually had youth come in after the camp was over and finish the final project. The week after the camp we heard our doorbell ring at one o’clock; it was a group of kids who wanted to come in and work. We had to explain to them that the camp was over and that this was a business! We ended up offering them internships and are still exploring other ways for them to participate.
Q: What made you say yes I need to do this?
A: Too often we have a tendency to not listen to the younger generation because they can’t vote, can’t drive and don’t have jobs. We consider them to not be productive members of society so we pass them over. Young people, especially from minorities, have a tendency to be left out of the discussion. Youth need examples of positive media. They need to see that they can make positive change occur through creating a message to people their own age.
Q. What’s your big hope?
A. The short term hope is that young people who took the camp understand that there are other people out there who are like them. We want them to identify issues in their community and address those small issues through social media, or picking up garbage or just being kind to someone who they thought was different from themselves. My theory is that if you just continue to put forth positivity it will begin to spread on its own.