Blue Ridge Stories Youth Video Workshop was a documentary video program that provided middle school youth with media literacy education while engaging them directly with the telling of their community’s history. The program ran for five years, from 2007-2011.
Conceived of by Virginia Tech Department of Theatre and Cinema faculty Paul Harrill and Ashley Maynor, the program, founded under the name Blacksburg Stories, was created both to address the underserved need of youth media literacy and arts education in the New River Valley as well as to provide Virginia Tech Cinema Studies students with an opportunity to learn by teaching.
Since its inception in 2007, the program served approximately 20 to 25 middle school youth each summer in the New River Valley. As a part of the program, middle school students attended daily workshops, researched local stories, conducted interviews, and produced short documentaries about Blacksburg as a culmination of their work. Students worked in small groups that are supervised by Virginia Tech Cinema students, and the summer program concludes each year with a free, public premiere of the finished documentaries at the historic Lyric Theatre.
For the first time in 2011, the program extended its reach to Roanoke and was hosted as a pilot program at the Taubman Museum of Art. Students from Blacksburg joined Roanoke participants by taking the Smartway Bus to and from the workshop each day. The 2011 video premiere took place at the Taubman Museum of Art. The goal was to expand the workshop’s reach to the Roanoke community, whose youth media literacy need is great, as well as to bridge the divide between the Roanoke and New River Valleys.
Following the workshops over the years, the videos produced during the workshop were sometimes screened on Public Access Television, at local community theatres such as the Shadowbox and Lyric Theatre, and made available to the community through DVDs. Photos and videos from the workshop hare also archived on public Internet sites where anyone in the community may view the works free of charge. The public is also invited to comment and dialogue about the representation of their town through these web 2.0 platforms.