NEWARK, NJ - Prior to this summer, more than two dozen students in the Abbott Leadership Institute  Youth Media Symposium summer film academy had to share two camcorders. 

Now, each student can create their stories with their own camera thanks to a donation from Panasonic Corporation of North America of 20 Lumix DMC-FZ300 cameras to the program. 

“It’s one thing to have five to seven kids standing around one camera. It's a completely different learning experience when every single one has a camera in their hand,” said Kaleena Berryman,  executive director of the Abbott Leadership Institute. “As a result, we have 15 young people who can really use their camera, go off and produce their own video.” 

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In past summers, students were able to produce one or two mini-projects. This year, students produced 13 mini projects and will present along with other Youth Media Symposium students at the “If Youth Ran The City” end of summer showcase. 

Since 2002, the leadership institute worked to increase meaningful civic engagement and galvanize community constituents to improve educational outcomes for children in Newark. In 2006, the Youth Media Symposium summer and afterschool program was created for students to develop technical media and advocacy skills.  

Students use elements of filmmaking, photography, journalism and social media to tell their own stories and address social justice issues. Last year, the students brought home the Newark International Film Festival’s “Best Youth Series” award. In 2017, they clinched the “Best Youth Film” award.

"These are good, high-quality cameras,” said Rabi’ah Hayes, a fifth-year veteran of the media symposium and a rising high school senior. 

The 24x zoom, full zoom range, 4K video recording cameras helped the program reallocate funds that would have been used to purchase an expensive camera and instead pay students a stipend at the end of the six-week program.

Enrollment for the summer program doubled, growing from 22 students to 45 this summer. The program didn't want to turn anyone away, Berryman told TAPinto Newark.

“The couple of thousand dollars that we would have spent, we were able to allocate toward stipends for their participation,” she said. “This is important for them because when they go back to school, they need things.” 

Sometimes students use their stipend to purchase equipment for themselves.

After participating in the program, many students use the skills they learned to pursue individual projects and freelance for extra money. One student just got a paid freelance gig on Thursday. 

“It's an honor to provide students of the Abbott Leadership Institute Youth Media Symposium with our Panasonic LUMIX cameras,” said Alejandra Ceja, executive director of Panasonic Foundation. “We hope this contribution supports the continued development of a generation of storytellers and leaders.”