Reflections from a Semifinalist: Ghetto Film School

Ghetto Film School is one of ten organizations selected as a semifinalist for the 2015 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards.


By Derrick Cameron, Artistic Director, Ghetto Film School

In his best-selling book, The Global Achievement Gap, Tony Wagner outlines the Seven Survival Skills that students need for careers in the 21st century:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Agility and adaptability (improvisation)
  • Initiative and entrepreneurship
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Curiosity and imagination

Each of these skills is innate to the art of filmmaking. As we crafted the application for the New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards, we realized more and more each day how relevant Ghetto Film School’s pedagogy, mission, and curriculum is and how increasingly necessary we are to equip young people with traits that will make them successful long-term. In turn, this makes our organization consciously operate to make sure that we are serving the young population of the South Bronx in the most efficient manner. By consistently applying our assets-based approach where we work with students’ strengths vs. highlighting their weaknesses, not only to our young artists, but also to our employees, we ensure that the organization is developing and enriching all of our individual ideas and skills. This is crucial for any arts organization, especially one that engages teenagers. At Ghetto Film School, our staff prides itself on our ability to harshly self-reflect on our successes and mistakes; going through this process with the Nonprofit Excellence Awards has deepened our assessment. By not only looking to the recent past but also projecting the short-term and long-term future of Ghetto Film School, we are able to review our management practices across all programs not just for the staff but including our board of directors. By stepping back to evaluate what exactly that we’ve done and will do, this can only benefit our organization further. The application process for the Awards has also reassured us that we are moving in the correct direction with a focus on generating our own earned income for long-term sustainability. By investing in the worth of our own educational programming, students that complete work for Digital Bodega are providing opportunities for another young artist that they may have never met, which is a powerful action for a teenager.

By using film, humanities and real-world experience as the foundation for students to build knowledge of a wide range of philosophies, students are applying critical and creative thinking skills in an everyday context. The ability to think creatively is crucial in creating the kind of projects that will flourish in the 21st Century. We must prepare the future US workforce by nurturing their creative aptitudes.

We’re very proud to be a semifinalist for the 2015 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards, and thank the Selection Committee for this honor.


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