A Student's Mission: Using Media to Make a Difference
More than 12 million children in Africa have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, 100-plus million kids live on the street. When Robin Worley, a student in the educational technology doctoral program, visited a home for street kids in Haiti and learned that 300,000 children in that country are slaves, she was moved to action. “More than anything, these young Haitians wanted to tell me the stories of their lives,” commented Worley. As she listened to the challenges they faced, she was certain that others would be as profoundly affected by the stories of hardship as she was, and that awareness would bring about positive changes in these young people’s lives.
Worley’s response resulted in the development of a program that partners high school students in developed countries with youth in developing countries to raise awareness of critical challenges in their world. Worley titled the program JUMP, Juveniles Use Media Power, and its mission is to give teens a voice and the skills to utilize media to make a difference.
The first JUMP club was in Washington State, where the team raised money and awareness for street kids in Haiti. Worley had greater plans for JUMP and needed more knowledge and support to expand the project. “I applied to the Pepperdine educational technology program with JUMP in mind,” said Worley. “I was unclear on how to proceed with my own nonprofit organization, and I knew I needed more academic experience and contacts to make JUMP a success.
The educational technology program has helped me immeasurably. I was able to apply everything I was learning to the development of JUMP, from papers on human and computer interaction to reviews of public policy. For an entire year, I focused all of my academic efforts on the first media workshop for JUMP in Kenya. And through the support of my colleagues and professors at Pepperdine, I was able to gain enough confidence and experience to pull off what I consider to be a tremendously successful year.”
That successful year consisted of 11 students, ages 14 to 19, from Island School in Kauai, Hawaii, where Worley serves as the technology teacher, traveling to Kenya for the month of July to collaborate with Kenyan teens from Kibera, Nairobi, Nakuru, Masai Mara, and Mombasa on media projects to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Once in Africa the Kauai JUMP club split into groups and took turns creating photography, digital video, and podcasts, a method of publishing audio files to the Internet, allowing guests to see and listen in on their travels and encounters with locals. The podcasts included the students’ interviews with Africans who discussed how the HIV/AIDS virus impacts their lives as well as educational information about the disease. Some Kenyan locals have established their own JUMP club and will continue to produce podcasts on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention issues. “The passion for media is now strong among several Kwacha individuals,” comments Jackie Kowa, an African teen now involved with the Kenyan JUMP club. “The experience with JUMP was a great opportunity. Talents we did not recognize before have surfaced, and the little knowledge we have is powerful.” The Kenyan teens involved with the JUMP program had a profound impact on the Kauai JUMP club teens. “Members of the Kenyan podcast team are some of the brightest kids I have ever met,” stated Erik Talvi, a student from the Kauai JUMP club. “This group stepped right into the podcasting, and the first time they ever did a podcast, it was ready to air. They make me want to give my all to the project so that I do them justice.”
Now back in the States, Worley is busy working with the Kauai students to polish up and distribute their media projects to national news outlets. Their aim is to obtain coverage of their trip on CNN Student News, MTV News, and Nick News. The team is also gathering the photography projects to create a book focused on the impact of HIV/AIDS on Kenyan teens’ lives. The coffee table book will be sold as a fundraiser to assist the Kenyan JUMP club.
Since the students return, they have been changed from their encounters and experiences in Kenya. Kelli-Rose Hooser, a Kauai JUMP club member, recounted, “When you walk into an area that you think is unlivable, but find smiles, laughter, and welcoming words, you wonder, what really are necessities? One thing I saw in the eyes of people we met was a sense of hope. This is something I don’t always see in America. Nothing in Africa is taken for granted, everything is used, and everything is appreciated.”
Three of the Kauai JUMP club members went on to participate in the U.N. Youth Delegate Conference in New York in August, and two leaders from the Kenyan JUMP club took part in the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August. While at the conference, the Kenya delegates promoted JUMP to other youth leaders from developing nations.
It is Worley’s aim to have multiple high schools across the United States establish their own JUMP clubs and plan trips to developing countries. “There are four high schools in the U.S. that are ready to start their own JUMP clubs this fall,” said Worley. “It’s a promising beginning.”