Lehman High School students felt like real filmmakers last Thursday, June 3, as they debuted a series of professional-quality public service announcements they made that focus on anti-bullying and a number of other important social themes of high school. The PSAs were made with the help of the borough’s public cable access station, Bronxnet.
There were two series of PSAs shown, each only about 2-3 minutes in length. The first series focused on bullying, while the second attacked a wide range of themes, some of them quite serious and weighty. In one anti-bullying PSA, one girl demands lunch money from another. “Break the cycle. Stop the harrassment,” read a disclaimer on the screen. Another entry went for a bit more humor. Two boys face each other down from each end of a long hallway, like a Wild West showdown. One is afriad to use the water fountain for fear of being accosted by the other, a bully. In the end, the bully falls and the bullied actually helps him up. The two walk off together and the song “Why Can’t We Be Friends” plays.
Throughout the videos, statistics about bullying in schools are displayed on notebooks, spoken, sung, and shown in subtitles on the screen. At the end of the bullying series, as thank yous and credits flashed, bloopers and outtakes were shown and the kids got pretty rowdy pointing out their friends. “Pass the message: stop bullying,” the video reads at the very end.
Michael Max Knobbe of Bronxnet, where some students have been doing internships with the teen show “Open 2.0”, stood up to congratulate the kids.
“I want you all to take a bow,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, but we made it didn’t we.”
April Horton of Verizon was also on hand to watch. Horton grew up in the Bronx herself and went to Cardinal Spellman High School.
“We’re so excited to be part of this, which was a project that helped prepare all the students in technology,” she said on behalf of the cell phone giant.
The second batch was shown next, and some were short and punchy. “No glove no love, have safe sex,” advised a quickie about condom use.
A different video was pun-free and far more upsetting. It showed a young girl cutting her wrist. “1 in 5 girls, 1 in 7 guys self-mutilate,” the screen said. “Be a good person, help stop the pain.”
Karen Andronico, assistant principal of English, helped run this entire PSA project, which involved students from the Media, Arts and Communication SLC. The SLCs are a new addition at Lehman, standing for Small Learning Communities, in which honors students can focus their academic enthusiasm in one area. “They’re learning how to edit film and create multimedia projects,” said Andronico. “We’re so pleased. The kids wrote the scripts, acted, and produced the short films all by themselves.” Next year, Lehman hopes to offer special TV production classes, but they’ll need funding for that.
“The theme of all these PSAs, no matter the specific topic, was that you have to show respect to all,” said Silvia Roman, a freshman.
Her friend Kimberly Cionca concurred with the importance of the program, and added, “I really like the hosting I’m getting to do at Bronxnet.” Cionca is one of the interns there currently, and has goals of working in journalism after high school.
While observing the PSAs, Andronico commented after the 7th or 8th bullying video: “When you repeat the message enough times, you really educate the kids and encourage zero tolerance.” Most importantly, the kids educated each other. And they felt good in the process.