by: Sumayyah Hyman
When I first joined Wide Angle Youth Media in October of 2009, I was a naïve junior at Western High School in Baltimore City. I was the teen that never spoke and was even afraid of my own shadow. I didn’t know too much about media, but my mother said I had to be in an after-school program. Wide Angle Youth Media became a whirlwind of excitement and a safe place. They quickly taught me that it was okay to express myself and to be a leader.
I’ll never forget my first video at Wide Angle Youth Media—“Textaholic.” I put so much time and effort into it. There were days when I thought it would never get done. There was always so much editing to do. Even when I thought it was perfect, more work was needed. Some days I’d be at Wide Angle from early in the morning until late at night just editing. The premiere day of “Textaholic” was one of the best days of my life. I had accomplished something that I thought was impossible. It was hard to believe my name was on something important that many people had seen.
Wrapping up my first year, I was very happy. Through Wide Angle Youth Media, I met my now best friend of 3 years and a whole bunch of amazing students, staff, and volunteers. In that first year, I had traveled all over the state and even across the country to Seattle, Washington for Super Fly Filmmaking, an outdoor production excursion.
“Being with Wide Angle Youth Media gave me a community that is like my second family”
As my second year approached, I was extremely excited. I was beginning my senior year of high school and happy, but by the time Wide Angle Youth Media began, I was no longer in that same happy place. What was supposed to be the best year of my life had turned into the worst; I was forced to leave Western High School to due to personal reasons and had to adapt to a new setting. I tried to keep my spirits high as the year progressed. At Wide Angle Youth Media, I was making another classic documentary; however halfway through the year, I was hospitalized for six days with severe anemia and blood loss. After several blood transfusions, I pulled through. During this time, Wide Angle Youth Media staff and students checked on me constantly. Being with Wide Angle Youth Media gave me a community that is like my second family.
Once out of the hospital, I was able to walk across the stage, receive my high school diploma and graduate on June 16, 2011. Just prior to graduation, I completed my second documentary, “Behind the Beat,” which had a very positive influence on the youth in Baltimore. I was in high spirits again; I had graduated high school and was healthier than before.
Entering my third year with Wide Angle Youth Media and my freshman year at Morgan State University, one of the nation’s top historically black colleges and universities, I was anticipating all of my upcoming achievements. I decided to switch things up dramatically: I joined the Youth Media Festival committee and left the Mentoring Video Program. I was once again tossed into a whirlwind of excitement at Wide Angle Youth Media.
“Being in Wide Angle Youth Media had given me some inner confidence and the voice to speak, so I was ready for the challenge.”
Before the program began, I was asked to help interview possible Youth Media Festival teachers. During that process, I was introduced to Carey Chiaia, an AmeriCorps member who aspired to teach creative skills to inner city youth. Carey had a charismatic personality and seemed genuinely interested in the position. I soon voted for Carey to be the new Youth Media Festival teacher and was surprised that my opinion mattered in the hiring process. I was excited for him and to begin my year organizing the Youth Media Festival.
I had never planned an event of this caliber, and I had to do it with people I hardly knew. I had been to previous festivals and had absolutely no idea of how to pull off this huge event. However, being in Wide Angle Youth Media had given me some inner confidence and the voice to speak, so I was ready for the challenge.
“If it weren’t for Wide Angle Youth Media encouraging me to be the best I can be, I’d probably still be saying I’m going back to school and never going back.”
Halfway through the year, I left Morgan State University. The commute was long, and I had been robbed more than once while trying to go home. Leaving Morgan, I was lost. I had given up on seeking a higher education and just wanted to sleep. The Wide Angle staff didn’t like it, and Susan Malone repeatedly asked me about my plans. She asked what I wanted to do and how I would do it without a quality education. Everything Susan said stuck in my head. From that point, I began to look for other colleges, determined to get back into a school by the fall of 2012. I looked far and wide but decided to stay close to home. I found my safe haven at University of Baltimore, where I am now majoring in Business/ Entrepreneurship.
If it weren’t for Wide Angle Youth Media encouraging me to be the best I can be, I’d probably still be saying I’m going back to school and never going back. I am beyond excited to start college and focus on my education, but I know that Wide Angle Youth Media is just down the street and will be there for me if I need my extended family. I owe much to Wide Angle Youth Media and its staff, including a thank you for making me the person I am today.
In 2013, we will provide free high-quality media education to over 300 young people in Baltimore City. In celebration of our 12 years, please consider pledging $12 every month for 2013 and help us continue to share youth voice in Baltimore. You can easily schedule a recurring donation at wideanglemedia.org/donate