Capturing literacy: TCF majors mentor youth

By Becca Murdoch | Contributing Writer

Capturing literacy: TCF majors mentor youth

A class from The Capitol School works on a parody “Key and Peele” sketch in the WVUA newsroom. CW | Layton Dudley

The students become the teachers, and "Key and Peele" get a run for their money. A group of middle school and high school students at the Capitol School, in the Center for Digital Literacies class, have been working all semester on parodying a "Key and Peele" sketch, “Teaching Center,” under the mentorship of telecommunication and film students from The University of Alabama. 

Barbara Rountree established the Capitol School in Tuscaloosa in 1993, based around the theory of multiple intelligences. Though it started as a private school, Rountree hoped the school could become a public charter school. With some bumps along the road of becoming a charter school, Rountree thought having students parody the "Key and Peele" sketch and show that film to the legislators voting on the issue would positively affect the decision, said Rachel Raimist, a professor at the University and co-creator of the Center for Digital Literacies (CDL). 

“I thought it would be a fun way for our middle school and high school students to learn the necessary [film] skills using humor,” Rountree said. 

The CDL is a lab of media software where students can develop multimedia literacy skills. After being contacted by Rountree in December 2012, Raimist and Rountree worked together to develop the CDL for the students at the Capitol School. 

After the CDL launched, Raimist taught four summer classes to elementary, middle and high school students with telecommunication and film students from the University as teaching assistants or interns. Selecting three to four students for each semester and a few for summer courses, Raimist leads the student mentors in teaching the students at the Capitol School. 

“There are some on-campus and local opportunities for TCF students,” Raimist said, “but not as many as there should be.” 

There are currently four TCF students working as interns at the CDL: Jordan Willey, Lauren Musgrove, Billy Causey and Chris Swart. Teaching children the skills they have learned at the University has proved rewarding and educational for the student interns. 

“It’s a really cool feeling when you’re with one of the kids and you can see it on their face, ‘Oh, I get it,’ ” said Swart, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film. “That’s a really satisfying feeling, especially if it’s with one of the students that’s really interested in film.”

Swart took the CDL internship after talking with Raimist and seeing that the structure of the class was very free form and open to what the interns wanted to teach. Willey, also a senior majoring in telecommunication and film, was contacted by Raimist after taking one of her classes and decided to jump on board last year and return this year to finish his internship. 

“I have a lot of memories from my high school video class and how that formed some of my own technique and opinions and ideas about film, and really helped to cement film as what I wanted to do,” Willey said. “With this internship, I see that a lot in the kids and I have a chance to teach them what I know and what film is about.”

Lawson Hill, a sophomore at the Capitol School, is in the CDL class and has been enjoying his time working on this film project with the student mentors. 

“It’s like having older brothers who obviously know a lot more than me,” Hill said. “I’m really learning a lot from them.” 

Margaret Hill, a teacher at the Capitol School and mother of Lawson and Ann Hill, sees this program as beneficial to both the student interns and the students at the Capitol School. 

“It’s amazing to see the effect of the outreach by The University of Alabama has had,” Hill said. “They are building a program by providing this outreach to children who are becoming interested in something that they may not have had the opportunity to do before.” 

Mentors have been instructing their students in pre-production so far this semester and are ready to begin their filming. They collaborated on the "Key and Peele" inspired, but wholly original, script, this semester and are now moving into the filming stage, which will take place at WVUA studios. 

“I got to check out the studio last week, and it’s incredible in there,” Swart said. “I was taking pictures in there with my phone, so I can’t imagine how excited these kids are going to be when they go in there – they’re just going to love it.” 

This internship program and production process has shown itself to be a win for everyone involved. 

“[The people at the Capitol School and Raimist] give us the opportunity to connect with and learn a little bit more about the city we live in,” Swart said. “As for the Capitol, they get a high quality project where their kids did the whole entire thing.” 

Rountree is happy to have the TCF students at the Capitol School, teaching the children. 

“The TCF students have been amazing,” Rountree said. “The interns are like rock stars to our students. Just like our teachers who teach Spanish, German and Chinese to all our students at the Capitol School, the TCF college students ‘speak’ this visual language of television and film production fluently.”

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