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PECS students create videos to spur activism

BRIGHTON — At the beginning of the school year, a group of Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School sixth-graders read some current event articles in class and decided they needed to do whatever they could to change the world.

Living in the digital age, it was natural to use a digital platform to get the word out.

They chose YouTube and named their channel “Wild Tribe Studios.” They produce a weekly video about different subjects. The videos are emailed to teachers, who show it to their classes during the week.

“[The students] promote the uses of positive character traits, address and inform on current event topics, generate suggestions on how to fix and/or prevent these issues and create campus challenges to motivate others to join their cause,” English and science teacher Amy Carr wrote in an email.

The students involved in the program are Sariya Alvarez, JB Anderson, Hilowa Garcia, Brandon Greene, Miley Jimmie, Jayleigh Braswell, Alyssa Madrigal, Jetta Osceola, Yani Smith, Ava Taylor, Bryce Trammell and Haden Woodward.

Subjects they’ve focused on include bullying, a telescope scheduled to be built on a sacred mountain in Hawaii, zero waste at school and other environmental issues.

Alyssa Madrigal, Miley Jimmie, Yani Smith, Hayden Woodward and Brandon Greene help raise funds for the Bahamas Red Cross on Oct. 18 in the school cafeteria. The students raised $300 to help with post-Hurricane Dorian recovery on the island nation. (Courtesy photo)

The students read and discuss articles from the Achieve 3000 instructional program and share what they learned.

Through their discussion of the articles, the students create a script for the videos.

Middle school instructional coach Stephanie Tedders lets them use the video equipment and, along with Carr, edits the footage. New episodes are posted weekly.

Each video describes a character trait, summarizes the article, gives tips on how others can help solve the problem and describe a new challenge designed to motivate other students to join their movement for positive change.

The students have also used the videos to promote a fundraiser they did for the Bahamas Red Cross after Hurricane Dorian — they raised $300 — and the ongoing program promoting a different character trait each week. Some of the character traits, or totems, are kindness, gratitude, leadership, integrity, compassion, assertiveness and self-discipline.

When a student is “caught” demonstrating that trait, the group gives them a raffle ticket for a surprise gift such as reusable metal straws, reusable bags and other items. Each video ends with the name of the winner of the week’s raffle prize.

“They have lots of ideas,” Carr said. “We’re trying to choose one at a time.”
During Red Ribbon Week, the group challenged students to pick up trash as they participated in the community walk on Oct. 8.

“You never really notice how dirty the world is until you actually look,” Yani Smith said.

Some of the PECS sixth-grade activists pose for a photo on campus Nov. 7. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

The students realize that most people don’t listen to kids as closely as they do to adults, so they wanted to figure out how to reach out to more people.

“There are a lot of problems in the world and we want to solve them and make the world better,” Bryce Trammell said. “With YouTube you have a larger audience that can spread the message faster.”

“Most people won’t listen to kids, but on a bigger platform we can be heard,” Alyssa Madrigal said. “We are trying to get it to government officials. If we give it to bigger people, then we can get the word out quicker.”

There are some challenges to creating the videos, such as finding the time, keeping up with schoolwork, pronouncing words correctly and choosing only one thing to focus on at a time.

But the students clearly enjoy having a voice and seeing how many others watch the videos.

“We’re showing leadership and making a path for people to follow,” Yani said. “They could follow anyone else, but they choose to follow us.”

Through their work the students realize they can make a change. A few said they feel accomplished.

“We know people will listen to us and not judge us because we’re kids,” Hayden Woodward said. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re too young.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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