The Best of Buena Vista: Empowering Community through Social Media
Just as we learn through experience, multi-year projects learn from previous years implementations. The Best of Buena Vista is a multi-year project that continues to build momentum each year it is repeated. Project leaders built on their success, addressed past challenges, and incorporated new opportunities and ideas.
Located in Buena Vista, VA, the project team at Parry McCluer High School sought to collaborate with their community to create optimism by celebrating the The Best of Buena Vista.
The goals of “The Best of BV” were to expand the current program of weekly video announcements made by and for the PMHS student body. In the second year of the project, the team built on the excitement and eagerness of new and returning students in their Blue Library and Film/TV classes. At the request of the their students, they sought to provide additional inter-generational opportunities and experiences utilizing film and written media.
The project aspired to disrupt the negative small-town mindset as their students engaged in interviewing adults about their positive contributions to the community.
The team also wanted to allow their students to benefit economically as they increased their communication, writing, and storytelling skills, while practicing responsibility and accountability.
What progress did they make towards their goals?
The project continued to make progress towards all of their goals. They Best of Buena Vista established and produced a regular pattern of publication which included promoting student achievement.
The negative small-town mindset continued to be disrupted as students connected with community members and created platforms of growth for both students and elders. PMHS students have a stronger connection to their school and community though the deep and meaningful relationships they have created with the community elders. Project lead, Rishi Richardson, reports that every experience has been richly rewarding as each interview and interaction is met with surprise and delight by all the participants.
Academic opportunities for their students have expanded while the students and community members are empowered was a new, positive perspective. Students are becoming progressive story tellers of their communities’ rich and complex history. Furthermore, the elders in the community also learn as they are excited to access their interview on social media and share with others.
What did students learn while participating in and producing The Best of Buena Vista?
PMHS students learned how to use camera equipment and practiced being in front of the camera. They increased their communication skills, writing skills and confidence through mentoring, interviewing, filming, creating content, and successfully producing film and writing products for “the Best of BV”. One student who needed help to write a paragraph when she first started the program is now completing rough drafts on her own! Another student with developmental challenges has gained confidence and improved his ability to share his ideas in front of the camera.
What challenges did they face and how did addressing these challenges shape future plans for the project?
From slowing down the project to a snail’s pace to stopping the project in its tracks, COVID and COVID related restrictions continued to be a major challenge for the project team Addressing these challenges head on, the project leaders rethought and reorganized how the project moved forward. They consulted closed with the communities’ elders and created contracts with students to complete the unfinished work from this year’s project.
After meeting with the communities’ elders, the project team revised their methods and took two directions towards completing their project goals. After all, “the Best of BV” was contributing to an optimistic mindset for the community, they could not let COVID hinder the momentum. The first direction was to continue interviewing elders as they have done in the past. The second direction was to create teams of students who would study one aspect of the community more deeply and for a longer period of time. Aspects of the community that have been studied thus far include the Buena Vista Colored School (a place where African-Americans attended school under segregation) and the Paxton House (a home built in the 1800’s which has been restored).
Both directions have been successful. In the first direction, community elders stepped forward to share their experiences with the students. In the second direction, student commitment to the project increased. So much so, project leaders have decided to expand the project into the summer months and the students are excited to participate!
Plans for the future
As students take on more responsibility, become more courageous, and find their inner voice, they are beginning to look for ways to shape the town’s future. With COVID restrictions starting to relax, community elders have once again come to the school to have conversations with the students.
The program is looking forward to the next school year and anticipate that the students will continue to grow and succeed in their participation. We at McCarthy Dressman Education Foundation are excited to see how “the Best of BV” continues to positively impact the students and community!
The project team is thrilled to share this video describing their accomplishments.
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This entry was posted in Academic Enrichment, Literacy & Writing Skills, Mentoring, Social Studies, Student Engagement, Student Publishing, Technology and tagged Academic Enrichment, community based learning, community pride, confidence, cultural studies, culturally relevant instruction, education, enrichment, literacy, mentoring, positive self-identity, social media, student engagement, student journalism, student produced media, student publishing, student success, technology, writing.