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Sony Create Action: The Story Of Youth Beat

In July, we announced Oakland, CA-based Youth Beat as the first grant winners for the Sony Create Action grant program, which aims to provide a long-lasting impact for local organizations and the communities they serve along with collaboration opportunities and marketing support. As Create Action grant recipients, Youth Beat will receive $50,000 in cash to continue and expand the organization's work, a Sony-produced short film telling their story and $50,000 in Sony Electronics products to support their action plan. We recently got the chance to catch up with Youth Beat's Jake Schoneker and Sarah Givens to learn more about their mission and what it means to be the first recipients of the Sony Create Action grant program.

Learn more about Youth Beat, the first organization to receive a Sony Create Action grant.

The Story of Youth Beat 

Youth Beat offers extensive digital media training, youth development and employment opportunities for inner-city Oakland public school students. "Youth Beat is training the future creators, creators that we need in the entertainment and media industry," says Schoneker. "We're providing a career pipeline for Oakland youth to express themselves and gain employable skills that allow them to reach for their dreams and succeed. Whether it's in college, their future career, whether they go into the media industry or not, quite frankly. A lot of these skills that they're learning are going to be useful for them, even if they don't become filmmakers and photographers." 

The program originated in 2009 as founder Jeff Key wanted to provide experiences that private school kids were getting to inner-city Oakland kids. "Jeff wanted to take the experience that he was able to provide for these private school kids up in the hills of Oakland," explains Schoneker, "and provide them for low-income kids down on the flatlands to be able to give them something approximating that experience."

To be able to do this, Key formed an institutional partnership with KDOL-TV. "And then Jeff made the connection with KDOL-TV, which is Oakland Unified's education access TV station and fortunately, the station manager at KDOL was totally on board," says Givens. "He asked us what equipment he should buy, the only caveat is that we have to produce a certain amount of stuff that they can broadcast on their station – but it's a fantastic arrangement. And there's no way we could do it without that, because of how expensive all the gear is. And there's a full-on broadcast studio. So there's even the live cameras and everything that kids can learn to use."

Providing Opportunities

What started as a small after-school program serving 50 students has grown to provide students opportunities far beyond the initial offerings. The programs that Youth Beats offer include animation, film and television training, all taught by accomplished industry professionals. There are also summer programs, giving students yet further opportunity to learn and grow.

"We are serving over 400 students a year at this point which we're very proud of," explains Schoneker. "These students need these opportunities, and so it's been our mission to work with as many as we can. We started off working with about 50 back in 2010/2011 in our flagship afterschool program, which we call our Future Filmmakers program. And that's still going now."

"It is multi-year training, so students come to us often as freshmen or sophomores and we grow with them through the course of their high school career. They move from a beginning class where they're learning about all the basics of filmmaking, composition, B-roll, editing, storytelling, and track up into advanced programs where they're using more advanced cameras and lighting and getting in the studio—making more profile and videos about their community."

These programs then lead to a paid internship with Youth Beat. Schoneker continues, "That's always been a significant component of our program that has been growing steadily and is a big focus for us right now. A multi-track sequence is really the flagship of our core program, where they're getting trained up as filmmakers. They become interns with us and we're putting them to work on professional projects that are paying."

Alongside the education programs, Youth Beat has a video production shop and a creative agency that works with local businesses that can hire the students to produce content for them. "Students will work with a professional like me out on a set, learning how to interact with a client, how to be useful on a set, how to get that work ethic, how we answer emails, and we provide rough cuts and open ourselves to feedback. All of these things, the soft skills, are going to make them successful in their career."

To learn more about Youth Beat and what they do for their community, head over to youthbeath.org.

The Create Action Grant Program is open through March 29, 2022 and will provide grants to 10 organizations total, with one new grant awarded each month. After initial submission, each application will be within consideration throughout the entirety of the program. Learn more and see how your organization can apply at alphauniverse.com/createaction.


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