Stephanie Lewis is 19 years old. She's a high school junior and an A student.
She used to have another label: high school dropout. But that one didn't stick. After struggling at her regular Chicago high school, she enrolled at Prologue Alternative High School and took a class on video production.
Now Stephanie has another skill to add to her resume: film maker. The film she and her classmates created, "Rock, Paper, Scissors," will be shown this evening at the Chicago Youth Film Festival, a collaboration of the Community TV Network and the Alternative Schools Network.
More at chicagoreporter.com
Like so many of the films at tonight's Youth Film Festival, Stephanie's group wanted to show its own perspective as teenagers. The subject? Stress. In the film, a young woman dreams that she can be three people--a student, a daughter and a friend. Stephanie and her group tried to show how teenagers can often feel pulled in too many directions and feel like they have too much responsibility and not enough time.
"I want the adults to understand that teenagers can't do everything on their own," Lewis said. "They can't go to school, pick up their sister, go with their friends, clean up the kitchen. They have too much responsibility."
Many teens are wilting under all this responsibility, Stephanie said, and aren't always able to handle it and need more help from the adults in their lives.
"One of the teens who watched it told us she could really relate to it," Stephanie said. "She said that she feels like she wishes somebody could take her spot sometimes."
This is only the second film Stephanie has ever made. She said the idea made her nervous, but slowly, she and her group figured it out.
"The film itself was difficult," Stephanie said. "So many types of ideas. We had to decrease ideas to fit into just one movie."
But the experience was a learning process, and something she feels has taught her more than just practical video skills.
"I learned to work in a group, to work as a team," she said. "I learned to be more confident in my own input."
Stephanie said that she knows what it's like to struggle in school, to feel like you're not moving ahead as a student. But the experience of an alternative school and programs like the Chicago Youth Film Festival have restored her confidence and put her on a path toward success, she said.
"You need your education to succeed in life," she said. "My school gave me a second chance. It's not easy, but it's a second chance. It's an incredible school."
Twenty-four films will be shown tonight, at the Fourth Annual Chicago Youth Community Film Festival at the Carruther's Center for Inner City Studies
(CCICS). All films will be web-cast and broadcast on CTVN's cable TV show, "Hard Cover: Voices and Visions of Chicago's Youth" seen on Chicago cable station CAN-TV Channel 19 and in New York City on Youth Channel.
Photo credit: Caleb Culver