MAP events bridge the divide between the school and the community

February 13, 2020 — by Anna Novoselov

Students hear the experiences of adults in various industries during Speaker Series and receive feedback from experienced professionals during SMASH’n

Ever since the Media Arts Program began in 2007, it has heavily relied on community involvement. In fact, the initial funding that helped create it, the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant, was given in 2006 under the requirement that the MAP teachers to work with an advisory panel of industry experts, such as professionals from film and tech firms, to ensure innovation and relevance in the coursework.

“From its inception, MAP has benefitted from community and professional involvement, which has ensured the curriculum is fresh and relevant,” said the program’s coordinator, English teacher Suzanne Herzman.

Through  incorporating technology and project-based learning into a media arts class as well as English and History classes, the program allows students to develop communication, film and design skills — all in a cross discipline way. Approximately 25 percent of the student body participates in MAP. 

In May, MAP hosts SMASH’n — an end-of-year awards ceremony and showcase for films. Student coordinators also arrange for three Speaker Series events in the MAP Annex each year that allow students, their families and members of the community to gain insights on various careers from professionals in various industries. 

Recent Speaker Series have had alumni in Hollywood and women in media themes, and an upcoming one in February focuses on business start-ups. Other past speakers have included an Olympic photographer, a journalist, a TV anchor and Rhodes Scholars.

“The Speaker Series is about sharing insightful experiences and showing how storytelling can help us all succeed,” said senior Krithi Sankar, a Speaker Series committee head. “MAP is all about communication and collaboration, and through the process of organizing the events and interviewing the speakers in a panel format, these two core tenets of MAP are used to uplift our school and our community.”

The Speaker Series committee — MAP president senior Ritika Kuppam, Speaker Series co-head junior Dylan Westman and MAP Speaker Series parent adviser Arati Najaraj — works alongside the MAP Boosters Board and Herzman to develop event themes and reach out to potential speakers. When three speakers agree to come, the committee creates questions to ask during the event and begins advertising around campus and to the community. 

Sankar said that since many of the speakers are alumni, they share a background with current students and can focus on showing them possible paths after high school.

“Our hope is that students both within and outside of MAP will find inspiration as well as possible applications for what they are learning in school,” Herzman said. 

During the presentations, speakers also describe their day-to-day job responsibilities, their accomplishments and the positive and negative attributes of their fields.

For instance, at the October Women in Media panel, Asuka Lin, a studio technician for the YouTube channel Fine Brothers Entertainment, discussed how her Asian-American identity shapes the content she creates. She also discussed the difficulties women face in establishing a career in male-dominated spheres and how workplaces with more female employees provide women with the confidence to share ideas and feel more involved.  

Sankar said that the panel increased her understanding of gender-based discriminiation and microaggressions that women may face in their jobs. Other panels have exposed her to the myriad of possible employment fields available and the specialized jobs found within various companies. 

“These events help bridge the divide between the school and the community,” Sankar said. “Speaker Series offers engaging and beneficial experiences for the whole community to learn about various career pathways.”

Like the Speaker Series, SMASH’n also provides opportunities for students to meet professionals in the community while showcasing their work. The top prize, the Industry Prize, is awarded by people from the community who have experience in film and design.

Past SMASH’n judges have included employees at DreamWorks Animation, documentary filmmakers and even Redwood Middle School media arts teacher Manny Steffen.

“It’s a really unique opportunity for students to receive feedback from those experienced in the artistic field,” Kuppam said.

While Speaker Series and SMASH’n are hosted by MAP, they involve the entire school and community. 

 “I care so deeply about creating these events,” Sankar said. “I make sure that I put as much time as needed so that at the end of the day, the audience and the speakers benefit from taking time out of their busy schedules to come and hear other people’s perspectives.”