HAMPTON, Va. — From the concept to the credits, youth in Hampton Roads are learning the art of film through a program called Off The Streets & Onto The Set.
Saadia White launched the program, also known as O.T.S., in Hampton last fall through her nonprofit, The Amazine Amazon.
"The premise of this was to bring about awareness and engage through public service announcements, short films, and documentaries. And that was all youth-led," White explained.
"O.T.S. is a space where they feel necessary... These young people came together and said... 'Not only are you going to hear us, but you're going to see us'," White remarked.
Alesha Brown with The Amazine Amazon said youth learn skills in the program like writing, directing, and photography; all to tell their stories, their way.
"We know we have problems with youth as far as gun violence, risky behavior, abuse, different things," Brown observed. "But we need to go directly to the youth and ask them not only what they think the issues are and how we got there, but what they think the solutions are."
White said 30 participants meet at least twice a month to work together and address issues in a positive way.
"When you do the films, you can each share your own topic of importance," said Kennedy Hood, one of the students in the program.
"We can get our point across and share our message, share what's going on and how to help people," said program participant Jordan Sargent.
White said she hopes young people leave the program thinking differently about their future and having a greater impact in their community.
"I needed for us, as adults, to actively listen and see our youth for more than just being young people without a voice," White said. "They have a voice. And their voices are powerful."
O.T.S. is hosting a Youth Film Bootcamp this summer for youth ages 13 to 24. The event will be held July 17-22, 2023 at the Workforce One Center in Hampton.
You can follow the program on Instagram.