Twenty new DYN mentors have come onboard to work with Chicago middle-school and high school students through Mayor Daley's Smart Communities program and LISC/Chicago (Local Initiatives Support Corporation). By expanding into new schools, DYN hopes to help close the digital divide that threatens to leave some students behind.
We’d like you to get to know our new mentors as we put the spotlight on a few of them over the coming months. They are professional artists and creators, who bring a diverse set of skills into the classroom as they work with students in afterschool programs in Pilsen, Humboldt Park, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, and Auburn-Gresham, as well as in a few Chicago Public Library branches.
We begin by introducing you to three new mentors, Carolina Gonzalez, Lindsey E. Bates, and Michael Lachney. These mentors have three unique approaches to their work, but all share a common thread of wanting to work with young people.
Carolina is an artist who uses film and video to tell stories to help her understand the reality around her. Born in Colombia and raised in a Spanish-speaking household, Carolina hopes to connect with her Orozco Elementary students and help them tell their own stories and understand their own reality.
"I really believe in the power of art to change, impact, and educate us," Carolina says. "I believe in the power that media has to affect and change our society. With active hands and minds, our reality is not given but constructed by us."
Life growing up in Colombia presented opportunities for Carolina that were "totally different" from the opportunities her students have.
"I never imagined myself doing things with media or even art," she says. "Media was never presented to me as an option, and art was just for people who could draw or was the fill-in class that I did not relate to."
But that all changed as she discovered digital technology and filmmaking. Carolina received a presidential merit scholarship from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she completed a Bachelor's of Fine Arts with an emphasis in film video and new media. And she hopes to put these skills to work as she engages with middle-school students.
"This age group is a very empowering and challenging age to mentor," Carolina says. "They are building their identities and starting to figure out their places in their communities. It is now when we can really show them options – not just academically speaking – but options to express themselves, to construct their personalities, to tell their stories, to affect media, to question it."
Lindsey E. Bates
“My biggest hope for the coming school year is for the students to be totally engaged with me and the assignments,” says Lindsay, a mentor working with Cameron Elementary kids, “so engaged that on their own time, they are teaching themselves more about the digital world.”
Lindsay, who grew up in Streamwood, Illinois, earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. He studied media arts and animation in school, with a concentration in 2D/3D animation and graphic design.
Lindsey is a working artist, having exhibited in solo shows and group shows throughout Chicago. His art has also been on display in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, and won first place in the DuSable Museum’s 35th Annual Art Festival in 2009.
Lindsay enjoys working with middle-school kids and hopes that as they learn more about digital media, it will open up a host of opportunities for them and what they might choose as their careers in life.
“If I could tell my students something, it’s that working with me will be a pleasure most of time and a pain part of the time,” Lindsay says, “because if I feel we are not on schedule to completing a deadline, I will work you until we are back on track. And at the end of the project, we will celebrate!”
Michael Lachney joins Talman Elementary as a digital mentor, bringing his documentary filmmaking skills into the classroom to share with students.
“Documentary works – the audio and the visual – provide a space for positive expression and self-exploration,” Michael says. “There is something about being able to capture reality that is worth it in itself – that preservationist instinct that we all have. And now that kids have cameras on their phones, preserving life has become a part of life.”
Growing up in Spring Lake, Michigan, Michael was always interested in movies. He earned his bachelor’s degree in film and video from Columbia College Chicago and is working toward his master’s degree in media studies at DePaul University.
“When I was 12 and 13, I was totally into Star Wars, bloody anime movies, and comic books,” Michael recalls. “I have always loved media, and working within the media somehow was always inevitable. I just did not know how.”
Michael has used his audio and visual production skills to participate in social justice campaigns and political reform. His research interests include the participatory communities of media fandom and the use of popular culture in media literacy.
“It wasn’t until I got more involved in politics and social issues that education became something I began to see as important.”
The way media is changing the way young people live and learn is exciting to Michael, and he wants to help kids make good use of it – both as consumers and as producers.
“Every Saturday night when I was in middle school, my friends and I would get together and go to the movie theater,” Michael says. “That still happens today, and it is great. But the ability to get together on a Saturday night and make a movie instead of just watch one is so much easier.”