After school, every Monday through Thursday, a group of Oakland high schoolers get a good dose of on-camera work, video editing, photography and other specialized media arts skills.
Started in 2009 by Jeff Key, Media Enterprise Alliance is a nonprofit that teaches teenagers how to produce videos and tell stories from their own perspectives. Key was previously teaching media arts skills in Oakland middle schools, but when his students expressed interest in continuing their media education, he realized high schools weren’t offering what they needed.
“There weren’t a lot of options, so I went and talked to high school principals and the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD),” Key said. “They thought it was a great idea, but they didn’t have any funding so I started a nonprofit to fund the program and bring it into the schools.”
Now under the mentorship of Key and other part-time media instructors, high school students looking for extra course credits and a a new skill set begin the school year with the basics. By the end of it, they are producing their own live-to-tape news program for Oakland Unified School District’s KDOL TV. “O News” is broadcast on Comcast channel 27 and AT&T channel 99.
Housed at La Escuelita Elementary School, the KDOL TV station and media lab offers students a chance to learn production on state-of-the-art equipment, provided by Comcast and AT&T through a contract with the city.
Jake Schoneker, MEA’s program director, is an alum of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (and a former Oakland North reporter). He has mentored students since the start of the year, helping them navigate their first live taping. “That’s such a great feeling for [students] to say, ‘I have these skills and I can get a job in this field if I wanted to,’” Schoneker says. “Even if they don’t want a job in that field, it builds their confidence and self esteem and just makes them a more well-rounded person.”
“Just about every profession now is somehow plugged into the media,” Key adds. “No matter what field they go in to, they’ll have a really good grasp of how to get their message out to the world.”