Online Workshop:  Using Media For Social Justice

In an unprecedented partnership between two educational organizations that believe student led classrooms are crucial in actively engaging students using a social-emotional learning approach, Bank Street College of Education and Scenarios USA have collaborated to present a four week online workshop titled: Using Media for Social Justice. Beginning February 24-March 20, 2015, this workshop will feature Scenarios USA films, curricula, activities, and utilize Bank Street’s world renowned online learning environment for a dynamic course for educators! Successful completion of the course results in 2 CEUs for participants.bankstreet finalFINAL copy

 

Registration instructions are below:

2. click register online at center of page
3. find #24 “Using Media for Social Justice”
4. click “enroll” the blue button to the right of the workshop with the price
5. go to the top of the page and click “checkout”
6. select “i will pay the total” from the drop down menu below the grid
7. to get a discounted fee of $275, type in the coupon code “susa1” and click “add” (late fee will be waived)
8. complete the information requested (i.e. address, name)
9. click “continue”
10. complete information requested (i.e. address, name, payment)
11. click “continue”
12. You are registered!

It’s a New Year and We Have a New Look

MLK.Scenarios.VP.Launch_resize
Illustration by Vin Ganapathy

Last year was a big, ugly year. We felt angry that the deaths of black people went unpunished, that survivors of sexual violence were told they were lying, or worse, didn’t matter. Consenting people were told time and again that who and how they loved was disgusting. It was a year that forced us to realize that, for all the “progress” we’ve made, we maybe haven’t gotten all that far. We went to theaters to see a movie about events that happened fifty years ago and saw something that looked eerily relevant.

As we re-launch our new streamlined website with a focus on narrative voices, art and film for, by and about underrepresented youth in America, we bear in mind the struggle for social justice endured last year, but we also move forward with the next year in front of us. And we shine the focus on young people, because they are the ones who know what’s happening first, who are the changemakers, and who continue to fight the decades-old fight for social justice in new and unprecedented ways: harnessing the power of countless voices to help Nicole Maines win her fight against her school system or building movements like #blacklivesmatter and got people to listen.

But if there’s nothing else that 2014 taught us, it’s that the fight for equal rights is constant, complicated and nuanced with individual stories and struggles. It’s part of every day and every part of our lives. It’s calling out people you love for saying “that’s so gay”. It’s asking why mainstream media continues to ignore the notion of fully-realized characters of color, and why universities aren’t doing more about on-campus sexual assault.

So as we look forward into 2015 and beyond, we want to make the new ScenariosUSA.org a space where we’re going to keep talking. That’s what we do. We amplify youth voices, we fight for social justice, we make movies, and we keep talking. And we’re going to hear from all kinds of people within that dialog—filmmakers, writers, millennials (in all their history-making diversity as a generation)—and, of course, from young people. Welcome, have a look, stick around and stay tuned.


Through a Different Lens: This is How I See Me.

Throughout December, we introduced you to 3 remarkable teenagers. They shared who they are, they told stories about feeling invisible, and they spoke of the need to quiet the noise around them.

At Scenarios, our work creates a space for young people to be supported as they figure out who they are. We do our work in schools, out of schools and online. And when the young people are ready to speak and to lead, we give them the space to do so — loudly and authentically.

FALL APPEAL BANNER 11v 4 copy

In 2015, Scenarios continues to listen and learn from young people with these featured projects:

STORIES – Our new website will be the space for millennials and influencers to be who they are and to share their vision. It will be lived, not told. Experienced, not observed. Site launches in February.

FILM – 3 youth-written, Hollywood-produced films on issues teens define as critical to their world are in production and will premiere on TV, online and on mobile devices together with youth-led advocacy campaigns. Films premiere in May.

EDUCATION – Our standards-based and arts-infused curriculum will be build around the 3 films we’re making now with teens. Our education cycle will roll into schools in Fall, 2015.

Make your 2014 contribution to Scenarios by December 31st and NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Thank you for being our partner in education and promoting youth voice.

Here’s to a productive, transformative, healthy 2015,

 


Through a Different Lens: Morriah

This is how you see me:
Walking down the streets of New York, people see me and forget me. Strangers see a girl who is tall and has short brown hair, brown skin, and is a little bit curvy and maybe depending on what I’m wearing, people judge my social class too.

Morriah

Morriah Lisowksi, 17, Brooklyn, NY

This is how I see me:
I fight for what I stand for and stand by what I think is right. I’m a girl, and I’m strong, my appearance accounts for a small percentage of who I am.

 

 

In 2015, our three new youth-written films will become part of the next Scenarios curriculum, amplifying their messages and helping hundreds of thousands of young people to see their lives through a different lens.

 

Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters.

Through A Different Lens: Fatimata

Fatimata Sylla, 17, Bronx, NY      
This is how you see me:
The world sees me as a happy and energetic, but reserved girl. The world sees me as someone who is shy.

This is how I see me:

I see myself as someone who is strong. After my father was killed we moved to the United States from our home of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Even though I miss him, as the oldest child, I stay strong for my mother and my brothers.

 

 Support Scenarios Youth Programs Here.

 

Fatimata participated in the Scenarios curriculum about Place & Power in her high school English class, and is now part of the Scenarios Media Corps, a group of youth working to create a digital campaign for our NYC film that addresses intimate partner violence. At Scenarios, we work side by side with young people to provide them with the analytical skills to connect knowledge with their lived experiences and the world around them. This holiday season, support the perspectives of young people like Fatimata by bringing Scenarios’ films and curricula to classrooms across the country.

 

Until December 31st, NBCUniversal and an anonymous donor will match your 100% tax deductible gift to Scenarios, dollar-for-dollar. Your donation matters. 


Scenarios USA Roundup of the 10 Most Important Reads on Ferguson

Last night a grand jury decided there will be no trial for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO. In the 108 days since Brown was killed, too many of the news reports have centered around vilifying Brown and the community of demonstrators who have dared to demand justice for the unnecessary taking of black life by police. News outlets have prioritized looting over coverage of peaceful protests, Brown’s past over his once possible future. By demonizing black bodies and black communities, news coverage continues the dangerous narrative that contributed to Brown’s death, and the taking of black lives across the country.

‘Justice’ in Ferguson: The politics of the protests

Despite this, there are those who have managed to report on Brown’s death while honoring his humanity. These are the pieces that have impacted us at Scenarios and we encourage you to read.

Face it, blacks. Michael Brown let you down.

      By Dexter Thomas, Jr

“Because we know that it’s common knowledge that white killers get treated like little lost lambs, while black victims are immediately demonized. Hell, there are now even listicles about this sort of thing. But we also know that any small flaw, any trace of humanity, will ruin the whole thing. That people, too many people, will be positively giddy at the sight of our blood.”

Ferguson: Injustice Still Hurts When You See It Coming

      By Kara Brown

“We knew many would care more about the destruction of property and inanimate objects than the destruction of black people’s sense of safety in this country. Still, it was hard not to be taken aback by the downright comical degree to which CNN lamented over a burned pizza chain instead of the dejection of a black community.”

      By Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Among the many relevant facts for any African-American negotiating their relationship with the police the following stands out: The police departments of America are endowed by the state with dominion over your body. This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. Sell cigarettes without proper authority and your body can be destroyed. Resent the people trying to entrap your body and it can be be destroyed. Protect the home of your mother and your body can be destroyed. Visit the home of your young daughter and your body will be destroyed. The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” 

Things to Stop Being Distracted by When a Black Person Gets Murdered by the Police

      By Mia McKenzie

“Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.” 

Ferguson is an occupation in plain sight and words aren’t enough to change that

      By Roxane Gay

“In truth, the media rarely seems well equipped to write about tragedy and trauma ethically, particularly when race is involved. It does not know how to report on Ferguson’s grief and anger without resorting to the most facile – and often most damaging – language that only perpetuates the ever-present racial divide in this country.” 

Mike Brown Dies, A Generation Comes Alive

      By Roland Martin

“The fight for a fair justice system has gone far beyond Ferguson. We see men and women of various backgrounds coming together to demand justice …. They are marching, protesting, organizing, registering voters, running candidates for office, training up the next generation of civil-rights lawyers. They are largely young people who have decided that, in the words of Black Freedom Movement leader Fannie Lou Hamer, they are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’” 

Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.

      By Carol Anderson

“A little more than half a century after Brown, the election of Obama gave hope to the country and the world that a new racial climate had emerged in America, or that it would. But such audacious hopes would be short-lived. A rash of voter-suppression legislation, a series of unfathomable Supreme Court decisions, the rise of stand-your-ground laws and continuing police brutality make clear that Obama’s election and reelection have unleashed yet another wave of fear and anger.”

Officer Wilson’s story is unbelievable. Literally.

      By Ezra Klein

So Brown is punching inside the car. Wilson is scrambling to deflect the blows, to protect his face, to regain control of the situation. And then Brown stops, turns to his left, says to his friend, “Here, hold these,” and hands him the cigarillos stolen from Ferguson Market. Then he turns back to Wilson and, with his left hand now freed from holding the contraband goods, throws a haymaker at Wilson. 

How to Deal with Friends’ Racist Reactions to Ferguson

      By Jenee Desmond-Harris

“But here’s what Facebook comments are good for: revealing data about whether you want your ‘friends’ to be your friends any longer. That is, of course, if you believe, as I do, that the way someone responds to other people’s pain and mistreatment—including the systemic mistreatment of entire groups of people—is a perfectly fine way to decide whether he or she is someone you like or want to continue to interact with.”

Get on the Bus: Inside the Black Life Matters ‘Freedom Ride’ to Ferguson

      By Akiba Solomon

“Later on, the young St. Louisan sitting next to me starts weeping. I know she goes by @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter and that she has more than 13,000 followers, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt her tears to get her full name or ask her age. Along with two friends she stands up and tells us how they’ve been protesting since the beginning and that they are exhausted. She also informs us that an out-of-towner (who turns out to be an ex-pimp named Tariq Nasheed) has been tearing her protest work apart on Twitter. She and her friends tell us that they’re thankful that we’re there but feel possessive of their movement. They urge us to keep Ferguson and Michael Brown at the center, a sentiment I hear from local people throughout the trip.”


3 Amazing Films- Coming Soon!

It’s finally happening! 

You’ve waited patiently to hear about who won Scenarios’ REAL DEAL contests, who’s directing the films and what’s going on.  At long last, the wait is over!  We have three amazing young writers and three brilliant directors turning their stories into short films.  Please join us in person or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes and on set exclusives, sneak previews of post production and finally, to see the films at their world premiere in 2015!

Chicago

Meet the writer: Janaya Greene wrote Veracity during her senior year of high school while attending Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in South Side Chicago. During this time the debate of legalizing gay marriage was at its height and many states were pushing for its legality. After many debates among friends, family and classmates, Janaya realized that the issue was not, “Is being gay right or wrong?” but rather “How do humans, gay or straight, deserve to be treated?”  With support from her film study teacher, Mr. Eugene Hazzard, and classmates, she proceeded to write Veracity, a story about an African-American girl named Olivia J. Brownstein, who gains the courage to tell her family and friends that she is a lesbian. The response she gets is not what she expected from those she loved most. Veracity explores the taboo of being gay in the African-American community.

Seith Mann

Meet the Director: Seith Mann is a Morehouse College alumnus and a graduate of the Grad Film Program at New York University. His thesis film, five deep breaths, premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, won Best Narrative Short at the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Finl Festival and 1st Significance at the 2003 New York University First Run Festival. Seith won the Gordon Parks Award for Emerging African-American Filmmakers in the Best Directing Category at the IFP/New York Market. Seith also received the Emerging Narrative Award, the Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting and the Richard Vague Film Production Fund Award for his feature screenplay, Come Sunday. To date, Seith has directed over thirty episodes of television including The WireGrey’s AnatomyHeroesBrotherhoodFriday Night LightsElementaryCalifornicationNurse JackieHomelandRectify and the Walking Dead. He has been nominated for a DGA Award, five NAACP Image Awards and won a NAACP Image Award for Directing for his episode of Friday Night Lights.

Cleveland

Meet the writer: Skyler Edge, a transgender male, wrote the story House, Not Home in his sophomore year at Facing History New Tech High School in Cleveland, OH. The story was born from his fears of coming out to his classmates as transgender after only a year of being out to family and friends. Out of his fear of rejection and violence, Skyler came up with the story of Terran, who is gender variant and does not conform to male nor female pronouns. Skyler wrote his story in hopes of bringing more visibility to transgender issues.

Meet the Director: Joshua Butler is a prolific film and television director whose recent work includes FOX’s The Following  starring Kevin Bacon, Pretty Little Liars for ABC Family, Crisis for NBC, Reckless for CBS, and Matador for Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network. Joshua directed the award-winning feature VLOG for Twisted Pictures and the producers of SAWBeer Money for USA Network, Deathlands for SyFy Channel, Saint Sinner for writer-producer Clive Barker, and the Christmas movie Prancer Returns for Raffaella De Laurentiis. He has just completed the Random Bench-produced short film Doghouse, starring Michael Maize and Erin Daniels. In addition to working with Scenarios USA this fall, Joshua will be directing Joe Carnahan’s new NBC thriller, State of Affairs, starring Katherine Heigl, and his 10th episode of CW’s The Vampire Diaries.

New York City

IMG_9942Meet the writer: Nialani Pringle, is a rising senior at Brooklyn Collaborative High School. Pringle’s film, Aleah, tells the story of a 17-year-old girl living in East New York, Brooklyn. Aleah, like many young girls, has hopes and dreams, though her everyday reality revolves around a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, an unplanned pregnancy and few places to turn. The story is based on Pringle’s life, whose own mother is a domestic abuse survivor and whose father was killed in Linden Plaza a year after she was born.  When asked why she chose to write this script, Pringle said, “My story shows that a person’s physical and emotional place can make a simple situation ten times worse. Aleah is a pregnant teenage girl in a bad neighborhood with absolutely no power. This was part of [my mother’s] reality and continues to be the reality for many women.” Aleah, was shot in the Linden Plaza Apartments of East New York.

 

Laurie Collyer

Meet the Director: Laurie Collyer premiered her first film at the Sundance Film Festival, a feature documentary  entitled,  Nuyorican Dream.  Nuyorican Dream had its broadcast premiere later that year on HBO/Cinemax.  The documentary earned Collyer a DGA nomination and won multiple prizes at international film festivals.  Her second film, narrative feature, Sherrybaby, also premiered at Sundance and earned lead actress Maggie Gyllenhaal a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Collyer participated in the Sundance Filmmakers’ Lab and the Residence du Festival de Cannes to develop Sherrybaby.  In 2009, Collyer received a Cinereach grant to develop the script for Sunlight Jr., Collyer’s most recent film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.  Sunlight Jr., features Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as down and out lovers, wrestling with pregnancy and homelessness.  Most recently, Collyer was hired by LD Productions to write a pilot based on the book, Brothel: Mustang Ranch and its Women, with partner Annie Marter.


Help Scenarios Redefine Place and Power in Chicago!

Scenarios USA has expanded our REAL DEAL program to Chicago schools.  Beginning this Fall, 39 dedicated educators in 9 public high schools are implementing the Scenarios curriculum addressing Place and Power.

Our excitement doesn’t stop there.  Today – Right Now – we’re launching our first ever Indiegogo Campaign to fund the Chicago REAL DEAL film.  REAL DEAL films are written by students as the final assignment of our curriculum and are made by some of your favorite Hollywood talents like Doug Liman (Bourne Identity), David Frankel (Devil Wears Prada), and Gina Prince- Bythewood (Love and Basketball).

Here’s what will happen: Nearly 1,000 Chicago students will submit their stories about place and power to our contest. (This theme is especially potent for the young people of Chicago who live in a city plagued by an epidemic of youth violence and immense cultural segregation.) One submission from Chicago will be selected to be turned into a REAL DEAL film.  The winning writer will be partnered with an acclaimed Hollywood director, shoot their story in their Chicago neighborhood with a professional crew, and bring their film to a local and national audience of 20 million!

We’ve been told that for teenagers to learn, you must talk to them.  But at Scenarios, we do something just as important as talking.  We listen.  That’s the mandate we began with when we started the organization 15 years ago.

As described by Scenarios REAL DEAL student, Terrance Ortiz, “Without someone showing you what’s possible, you don’t know what you can contribute to the world. When doors open, you can surprise yourself, and others.”

Help us open new doors – doors that are safe for young people to walk through, where, on the other side, they can be heard.

Please visit our Indiegogo page. watch our video, DONATE and HELP to make a film from Chicago.  This is more than a film, though – this is a chance to grow the creative spark in the teenagers we work with, many of whom had long stopped considering their own futures as bright or promising.

We’re honored to be invited into Chicago for this school year, and we’re thrilled to have you join us at this exciting start of our journey.  Thank you for visiting the Indiegogo page.

Warmly,

Maura Minsky
Executive Director/Co-Founder

P.S.  Please share our current Facebook Indiegogo Update on your Wall!chicago scenarios banner


Announcing the 2013-14 REAL DEAL Teacher Workshops, Curriculum and Contest

Love. Money. Family. Friendship. Power. Violence.

Do your students think and talk about these issues? Do your students love watching movies?

Are you looking for interactive, engaging, Common Core-aligned activities that will get even your most reluctant students thinking critically and writing creatively about sexual health and social justice issues?

Are you interested in exploring how the arts can take critical thinking to a whole new level?

Do you aim to create a safe space for your students to build their social and emotional competencies?

 COMING IN FALL 2013 TO NYC, CLEVELAND AND CHICAGO

Cleveland-WorkshopScenarios USA’s professional development workshops, for all educators grades 6-12, where we tackle these questions and more. These workshops are for educators who teach in our three REAL DEAL regions: New York City, Cleveland and Chicago.

Every teacher who attends our workshops will receive a free REAL DEAL curriculum and the new Scenarios USA movies, which are written by teens for teens.

Workshop participants will also learn about the 2013-14 REAL DEAL contest, where student winners are partnered with Hollywood directors and make short films.

REAL DEAL Curriculum Lessons:

  • Common Core-aligned
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies
  • Creative, interactive and democratic

Please register here to receive more information about the workshop dates and locations as they are set: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Fall2013preregistration.


#myscenarios storytelling campaign

myscenarios-jpg

my-scenarios-collage-2

Dear Friends,

Today we are launching our #myscenarios campaign to support, engage, and inspire young people to reach their full potential through the power of education, media and storytelling. The campaign will feature stories from alumni, educators, filmmakers, supporters, and other members of the Scenarios family.

For almost two decades, Scenarios has worked tirelessly to bring youth voices to the forefront of social impact movements. In that time, we have worked with over 100,000 students and 4,000 teachers all over the country; produced 27 youth-written films; won awards at numerous film festivals worldwide; broadcast on major networks; and created five impactful curricula. We still have more work to do.

Join the movement to center young people in the conversations shaping their lives

Our mission is becoming increasingly more important. We have seen the transformative process of our program extend beyond the classroom and the films. The students find strength in their own voices and abilities to affect change, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of their communities – and the world. Every day, we are inundated with troubling news from all over. Never has the time to affect change been more crucial.

Scenarios aims to help young people become critical thinkers and active players in society. We support the process of storytelling and its effect on helping young people to identify who they are and the kind of impact they want to make-however they choose to make it. Many of our students have become filmmakers, but just as many have gone on to become teachers, writers, counselors, activists, and influencers in other fields. Many of our directors have credited their partnership with students making them better storytellers. Teachers have reported that their students were more engaged in school after participating in our curriculum. Still we have more work to do.

Our vision at Scenarios is to make sure every young person’s unique voice is heard. Earlier this year we launched our new youth production program, where students are learning more about the process of storytelling and filmmaking outside of the set. We are working on plans to expand our current film and education programs to make this vision possible. Stay tuned for more updates.

Please join us in this movement and be a part of the Scenarios family.

Pledge your support here or text keyword youthvoices to 71777

Your support will help us to

                                           Expand our current REAL DEAL Film and Education Programs to provide more opportunities for students and educators

                                           Extend our REAL DEAL Programs into places where we are most needed

Until we have realized our vision of having all youth voices be heard,

there will always be work to do.

Warmly,

The Scenarios Crew

Maura, Gloria, Rob, Steph, Cecilia, Tara, and Beth

                                        scenarios-vector-black-white-1


One day, twenty four hours, a million ways to give…

Dear Friends,

I co-founded Scenarios USA with a fire in my belly. A fire that was lit when I saw first-hand how decisions were made in the media to nearly eliminate the voices and representation of people who were on the margins.

In 17 years the world has changed, our access to creating and consuming media has changed. What has clearly not changed is the human need to be heard and to be understood.

Help us expand our programs in 2017

Our mission at Scenarios – to support, engage and inspire young people to realize their full potential through the power of education, media, and storytelling – became a little more important in the last couple of weeks.

We know that more young people need the resources and the space to create and to control their own narratives so that they may realize their fullest selves. Scenarios is here for them. All of them.

The Scenarios team is committed to lifting up the voices of our most silenced. We know that by listening to and learning from these stories, we are all better off.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29th, we’re participating in #GivingTuesday: a global movement to celebrate generosity and compassion . We ask you to join us and help to bring youth voices to the forefront of local, national, and global conversations.

Please visit our Giving Tuesday page here to make a 100% tax deductible donation in any amount. You can also make a contribution by texting the keyword SUSA to 41444.

“The words, ‘doesn’t live up to his potential’ should have been on my birth certificate, since that’s what I’ve heard my whole life.  Scenarios gave me the chance to show what I can do.”
 – Scenarios REAL DEAL writer, NYC

In solidarity,


Maura Minsky
Co-Founder & Executive Director

P.S. Feel free to show us some love on our social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram . #GivingTuesday and let folks know you support the mission of Scenarios.

 


A message of love and solidarity for Educators from Associate Director, Gloria Daniel

Dear Friends,

We at Scenarios, like probably many of you, have been struggling to articulate all of our feelings surrounding  the recent events. We have many questions about the impact that all of this will have on our lives, communities, country, and world – but especially and specifically, how this is affecting our youth.

We are still forging our plan for how our organization is best going to move forward and use our platform in the most effective way possible and to go into places where we are most needed within this chaotic sociopolitical atmosphere. But in the mean time, instead of focusing on our concerns, we would instead like to express hope and gratitude to you – our educators – to the teachers in our community who are making a difference in the lives of our young people every day.

We at Scenarios recognize that there is so much being asked of you as a teacher right now. Friend, counselor, warrior, fighter . . .  Your students need so much of you.

We recognize for many students you are the first, last, (and sometimes), the only line of defense. As teachers, you are answering to the demands of your school administration, your students’ parents, your community, and your own beliefs and we know that is becoming harder and harder in these times of standardized testing and grading. We understand, you are guiding your students through these times. You are guiding them through these times with grace, skill, understanding, compassion, and heart.

You show up every day and do your job with love, dedication, and commitment.

We at Scenarios see you!
We at Scenarios hear you!
We at Scenarios support you!
We at Scenarios honor you!

Thank you again for all that you do for our youth.

With gratitude,

The Staff of Scenarios USA


Our greatest resource is each other. Find strength in community. – Mariella Zavala, Scenarios alumna

A message from Our Executive Director and Co-Founder, Maura Minsky

The staff at Scenarios feel that the world has changed in the last two weeks. We show up each day, we talk, we strategize, and we still have many questions about the impact that the current sociopolitical atmosphere will have on our lives, communities, country, and world – but especially, and specifically, how this is affecting our youth.

The mission of Scenarios has always been about the inclusion and sharing of experiences and lives that are often not seen – perspectives of young people, of immigrants, of children of immigrants, of the incarcerated, of people living in border cities and colonias, of young parents, of queer folks, and of individuals who have felt invisible.

Never has our mission to amplify youth voices felt more important. Scenarios staff is planning now to expand our work into the communities and schools that need us most.

Next Tuesday, November 29th is #GivingTuesday. It is a global day of giving that utilizes the power of social media to raise money for non-profit organizations and important causes all over the world. Please help Scenarios amplify more youth voices by supporting us in several ways:

1.      Make a donation to Scenarios in solidarity and celebration for the work.

2.      Share a story on your social media page finishing the line: ” #myscenarios is…”. Tell us why telling YOUR story is important. Please include #GivingTuesday and tag @ScenariosUSA, if you can.

The world might have changed – but what has not changed is the human need to be heard and to be understood. As a community, we can agree to keep respecting and listening to every voice.

With much love and solidarity,

Scenarios USA

P.S. Scenarios is excited to announce the upcoming world premiere of our next two films in Spring 2017.  Would you like to attend? Text “SUSATICKETS” now to 51555 for a chance to win two free tickets to the next Scenarios film premiere in NYC!


Greater Expectations

As a writer, lately I’ve found myself having serious writers block. Feeling a bit stuck in what I consider my safe haven until now.

Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies Display
Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies Display

Almost a year ago now, I had a crisis of conscience when I took a long hard look at where I was in my life. There I was sitting in on high level forums at the UN during the day and filling each leftover second working on a film. I found it somewhat surprising to feel more fulfilled when I was in the world of filmmaking than when I was listening to ambassadors speak. I wondered if it was the creative side of me reacting to a life spent stifled in my own mind, endlessly pursuing the many dreams other people had for me, or if it was the need to see the light of day and be out on the field making a real difference. Maybe a combination of both. It was unclear what my path would be, because film came into my life by accident, something I just kind of stumbled into. All the while discovering that film could have just as big of an impact as any other platform.

It was in that crisis of conscience that my cousin asked me what I would do if I knew I wouldn’t fail. My immediate thought was:  Write. She asked me to think of and write about an object from the past that meant something significant to me. I immediately saw, clear as day, my brown spiral notebook from 9th grade English class. And there was my teacher, Mr. Delaney, a tall man with a thick Irish accent and a penchant for having students recite sonnets in class every day. He challenged us to think critically in a way I had never experienced before nor since. He had us write stories and reflections in our notebooks. He would diligently review them each day. He would have us review each other’s work. For the most part, the class hated it. I loved it.  

One day he asked me to stay behind to discuss some stories I wrote. He told me that my writing revealed more of who I was to him than any time I ever spoke up in class, and that one day he hoped that I would be brave enough to share that with the world. He handed me my notebook and inside was a note saying that I inspired him, that he had faith in me, and that I just needed to work a little more on my character development. He also wrote that my report on Great Expectations was due.

Mr. Delaney left at the end of that school year but that moment stays with me now. It was then that I realized that writing would be in my future and that I would use it to work with young people. Young people who wanted –  needed – to hear that someone was ready to listen to them.   

I’m still building the courage to share my stories with the world. I lost that particular notebook during Hurricane Sandy and, while those stories are gone, there are more to live and write.  The story I am living has me in a nonprofit career that combines my newfound love of filmmaking and passion for storytelling. Through Scenarios, I am fulfilling my own dream of working with youth in education.

With Scenarios, I have the opportunity to work with young people who are much braver than I ever was, facing a world much more daunting than I ever imagined. We work with them to think critically and actively about who they want to be in the world and what kind impact they want to make. We empower them to have the agency to discuss difficult and often controversial issues. We bring their stories to life through film. We give them the platform to continue those important discussions with their peers, with adults. We inspire professional filmmakers to want to give back in a big way. All of this great work-important work- and I’ve just now come to realize that it isn’t even the most important part of what we do.

Recently I was reminded of that feeling I had when Mr. Delaney told me that my stories mattered. I was in a high school English classroom, for the first time since I was a student, listening to teachers speak about their work. Their words could have been Mr. Delaney’s: Valued, relevant, inspiring.  It makes me feel hopeful that those kinds of teachers exist in the world and grateful that students are able to learn from them. And that at Scenarios we work to support them in that effort.

Educators, it is with them that the most important part of our work begins. In their classrooms. Day in and day out, they give of themselves and work with the students. They go beyond just implementing our curriculum, and challenge students to think reflectively, creatively and intellectually. They provide an open and safe environment to do so.  As a result of that dedication, we benefit greatly, with the raw and rich youth-stories that are submitted to us. It is my hope that one day we will be able to feature more than just the winning stories, giving a voice to as many young people – especially to those who feel ostracized and alone. We’ll get there. I am committed to get there.  

“Work a little more on character development,” he wrote.  How surprising that that little maxim has applied so much more to my life than just in my writing.  It’s what we hope our young people will do, and it’s what I continually remind myself to do now and, I hope, forever.

Thank you, Mr. Delaney.  “I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”