CMAC Youth Voices

Special Thanks To

CMAC Youth Voices is a 14 week documentary filmmaking intensive for Central Valley Junior High and High School students, age 18 and under.

The Youth Voices program teaches youth how to harness the power of media to tell stories of personal and societal significance through documentary filmmaking.

Over the last 14 weeks, these young filmmakers produced their own documentary films focusing on social justice issues relevant to the Central Valley, with the guidance of CMAC staff. Topics include climate change, cyberbullying, higher education in Latinx communities, eating disorders amongst youth, a historical look at the wetlands of the Central Valley, and more.

CMAC Youth Voices is made possible by funding from The California Endowment and California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities..

More About the Program

This year’s program

Youth Voices 2022

Our 2022 cohort was comprised of high school and middle school students from Fresno, Clovis, Madera, Tollhouse, and Porterville. These young filmmakers began meeting in June 2022. Teaching Artists Meng Lee and Sergio Cortes guided them through a comprehensive 14-week training program that included topics such as media literacy, idea generation, scriptwriting, field production, audio production, editing, and post-production. Participants produced documentary films about issues of their own choosing.

This year’s program was made possible by funding from The California Endowment and from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Blanca Barajas (Edison High School, Fresno). Topic: Disappearing Wetlands: “My goal is to spread awareness about the wetlands that used to be here and how the drastic changes have affected us. I would like to reimagine a future in which my home in the Central Valley has become much more sustainable and restored, without the presence of corporate greed. I also want to gain experience with digital media, since that is the career I’m interested in.”

Carolina Lee (Edison High School, Fresno). Topic: Cyberbullying: “I would like to make a documentary about cyberbullying and screen usage. This is a topic that has been talked about a lot but I truly think is important for this generation, and definitely affects those in my community. Just recently there have been many anti-Black Instagram accounts targeted at schools like “bsublacks” targeted at Bullard’s Black students, which is extremely racist, a form of cyberbullying, and which should not be tolerated.”

Colby Horsman (Computech Middle School, Fresno). Topic: Climate Change in the Valley: “Climate change is concern for our valley because of drought. Water has become the oil of the valley, and without it our agriculture economy will be in grave danger. I want to dive into the stories of climate change, including talking to famers, workers, families, and climate advocates. I will explore what we can do to make a change in both our own lives and the policies that are driving this change.”

Cosmo Velez (Sierra High School, Tollhouse). Topic: Education Barriers: “In schools there seems to be an increasing divide between the two paths you can take. There are the A.P-take-every-hard-class-I-can students, and the kids that don’t take any higher level classes. Students often express they feel treated differently if they take certain courses. Is there any truth towards this prejudice?”

Daniela Maciel Navarro (Summit Charter High School, Porterville). Topic: First Generation Latinos: “An issue that I have found myself in throughout my time at high school so far would be the education rates in the Hispanic-Latino communities. Education in general within hispanic families is a touchy subject. As many of our parents are immigrants and have had to work since a very young age, continuing higher education is praised. There are definitely many layers to education and I understand that it’s not perfect but I know it will come my way harder in the future.”

Fernando Ortega (Computech Middle School, Fresno). Topic: LGBTQ+ Rights: “The story that I would like to inform people with my documentary is the issues of LBGTQ+ rights, and how they should all be treated the same not mattering the sexuality they are labeled as. I feel like more awareness should be brought up about these protests and riots happening near Fresno in the Central Valley, and also around California about how people are being treated differently because of who they are labeled as or are attracted to. The documentary should try to inspire other people to embrace themselves for who they are and should encourage people to act and fight for their rights. It should try to help normalize the idea of labels, pronouns, and sexuality to other people, that it really should not be such a big deal and that everyone is human and should be treated the same.”

Grace Persons (Buchanan High School, Fresno). Topic: Angel Babies Program: “I would like to bring more light and attention to the Hinds Hospice Angel Babies program. They are a Central Valley organization that helps families that loses babies pre and post pregnancy. This organization holds a special place in my heart because it has been a prominent part in the lives of my family. My parents lost by brother when he was born, and they didn’t know how they would continue on through their lives. Hinds Hospice helped my parents through their grief and showed them a community of people who knew exactly what they were going through. I would like to share the stories of those people, the story of the founder and how she created this amazing organization, and show others that could be going through this that they aren’t alone.”

Isabella Riley (Liberty High School, Madera). Topic: The Dangers of Fentynal: “The idea that I have for the documentary is to bring awareness to drugs on the street of Fresno. I want young people to realize that Fentanyl is not a game. If you even take a small amount there is a great chance that you can die. If you don’t die, you’re lucky but know that your mind will never be the same again. Fentanyl is hurting many people and it’s sad to see young people throw their lives away for a drug that will likely kill them. People need to know about this drug and they need to know the harmful consequences they will face if they take it.”

Kaylee Offerman (Justine Garza High School, Fresno). Topic: Teens and Eating Disorders: “This documentary will give insight on how food can effect a pretty girl who has a good family and straight A’s in a pandemic who constantly had to be with herself all the time. Yet my story does cover everyone who struggles with eating, it can still reach to some people who are going through the same things I went through. Along with giving insight with people who may not have it but notice someone who might be having a hard time. This effects the community because it impacts people a lot of people who struggle with it. Overall I am trying to send a message that no one is alone and no one has to go through it alone.”

Rami Zwebti (Buchanan High School, Fresno): Topic: COVID-19 and Mental Health: “I am a human-rights activist in my community, even appearing on global news for the speeches I have given. I primarily focus on COVID-19 and how it impacts the mental/physical well-being of students. In fact, I am currently writing an article about how COVID-19 made my classmates who were infected feel. I have interviewed three people so far, and will be finishing the article soon. While COVID-19 may not seem like the biggest issue at the moment, it is important that we remember those who have lost family members to it.”

Ryan McFarland (Phillip J. Patiño School of Entrepreneurship, Fresno). Topic: Homelessness: “A big story that is important to me is addressing homelessness in the Central Valley. To illustrate this story I will interview those directly affected by homelessness and those actively supporting the homeless throughout the Central Valley. Giving a voice to those who are unable to be heard and are frequently ignored and silenced is very important to me. It troubles me to see those affected by homelessness being treated like they are nothing and they have no story to be told. I want to be there for them to feel heard, and wanted, and that their story is important.”

Sukhan Brar (Granite Ridge Intermediate, Fresno). Topic: Traffic Safety: “In my documentary, I want to talk about reckless driving and pedestrian accidents throughout Fresno and Clovis. I want to figure out why these accidents happen and how they can be prevented. I have a couple of friends who have experienced losing someone a relative to a jaywalking or reckless driving accident. They can help make a personal connection with the viewer and increase the chance the viewer will take precautions.”

Past Programs

Youth Voices 2021

Our 2021 cohort was comprised of high school students from Fresno, Clovis, Kerman and Visalia. These young filmmakers began meeting in January 2021. CMAC staffers Lisa Talley and Dom Zamora guided them through a comprehensive 14-week training program that included topics such as media literacy, idea generation, scriptwriting, field production, audio production, editing, and post-production. Participants produced their own documentary films focusing on social justice issues relevant to the Central Valley. Topics include contemporary education barriers in Fresno, disparities in access to high-speed internet, immigration, homelessness, and LGBTQ+ visibility.

This CMAC Youth Voices cohort was made possible by funding from The California Endowment and from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The goal of the program is to increase the health outcomes of youth through video arts. Research shows that sharing stories not only connects people but is also good for an individual’s mental health. The film screening is suitable for audiences of all ages.

Bisexual Visibility: Acknowledging the Overlooked – By Isabella O’Neal

Often people who identify as bisexual are overlooked and discriminated by both the LGBTQ+ and straight community. This film shares the experience of two bisexuals to alleviate some of the fears and discomfort associated with coming out.

Contemporary Education Barriers in Fresno’s Concentrated Poverty – By Eunice Choi

The lack of adequate funding in public schools is largely due to geography and zip code placement. It’s a phenomenon that perpetuates decreased access to class mobility in modern society. This film explores how insufficient funding for schools has become a contemporary education barrier.

CASA – By Brianna Mendoza

This documentary focuses on the non-profit organization Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Fresno and Madera, what they hope to accomplish, as well as the struggles foster kids face.

Meri Mitti. My Land. – By Ishan Singh

India was built on the backs of farmers. However, the country has turned against its people, it has turned against its Kisans with the passage of key legislation that greatly impacts their livelihood. The film is about the fight for life, rights, and land. This is the farmer protest of India.

404 Connection Not Found – By Ruben Diaz

This documentary focuses on the digital divide – the disparity of high-speed internet access between our urban and rural areas.

Immigration in the U.S. – By Jennifer Garcia-Villa

Immigration has become a hot-button issue fueled by misinformation that creates stigmas that are often, only myths. The issues surrounding immigration from Central America are driven by poor policies and misunderstandings. This documentary aims to raise awareness to the issues within our system and debunk some of those myths.

Field Workers – By Oscar Ledezma

This documentary takes an intimate look at the lives of field workers and the struggles they overcome on a daily basis.

She/Him/They – By Alicia Lopez

Pronouns are not a preference, but an integral part of one’s identity. This documentary shares the significance of pronouns by telling personal stories in an effort to normalize pronouns in a way that promotes asking others about, and using, their correct pronouns.

Teen Depression – By Laila Jordan

Life is never as it seems, and those who seem “ok” on the surface may not be deep down. This story explores the personal story of the filmmaker struggling with depression and the ways others can potentially recognize it in their children and family members.

Unhoused in a Pandemic – By Jackie Schuster

In 2020, many of us were stuck in our homes, unsure of what the future held. For people experiencing homelessness, this uncertainty was made worse by a lack of shelter and safety. This documentary explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected homeless people in the Central Valley.

Perseverance is Key – By Yaeleen Garcia

Wanting to start a business is challenging. Trying to run a business is even more difficult. This documentary focuses on two individuals who give insight, based on their experiences, on how to overcome obstacles to achieving long-term goals and dreams.

Youth Voices 2020

Our first Youth Voices cohort produced three documentary films that were screened to the public on Sunday, March 1, 2020, at Maya Cinemas in Fresno. Our 2020 program was made possible by funding from The California Endowment.

Intergenerational Politics In Fresno – By Gabby Rivas and Johnsen Del Rosario

A documentary about politics in Fresno from different points of view.

Fresno: A Home For All – By Raymart Catacutan and Melissa Andrade

A documentary about finding resources for the local homeless population.

Tolteca: A Story of Success – By Ruben Diaz, Gabby Rivas, Mark Pizana

A documentary about Aaron Ordaz, an immigrant and owner of Candies Tolteca.

Behind the Scenes

Interviews with participants from CMAC’s 2020 Youth Voices program.

CMAC Youth Voices Screening with Filmmaker Q&A

Sunday, March 1, 2020, at Maya Cinemas in Fresno, California.

Frequently Asked Questions

The program runs for 14 weeks beginning June 3, 2022. Time commitment will vary but participants should anticipate dedicating 3 – 5 hours per week to the program.

Central Valley Junior High and High School students, age 18 and under.

No, students will gain any necessary experience during the 14-week program. All experience levels are welcomed to apply.

CMAC staff and mentors can help you develop a film topic, but we highly encourage students to outline an idea or provide insight into a topic they are interested in creating a documentary about.

CMAC secured a grant through the California Endowment to host this program. Programs like these are only made possible through community partnerships. If you are interested in partnering with CMAC, we are interested in collaborating with you!