Compadre Academy wins ASU's Better Together Challenge

The competition empowers — and funds — high school and middle school students who want to see positive change in their communities


May 4, 2018

High school sometimes seems like a Darwinian environment: survival is dependent on keeping up with the crowd, creating barriers, and maintaining the status quo.

But the status quo sometimes needs a shake-up, and an Arizona State University-led initiative is helping high school and middle school students do just that. Students from Compadre Academy in Tempe won the 2018 Better Together Challenge for their project to better their school and community through inclusiveness. Photo by Jamie Ell/ASU Now Download Full Image

Ten Arizona middle schools and high schools participated in the 2018 Better Together Challenge, a program developed by the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at ASU.

“When schools are inclusive, safe, and equitable, students feel a sense of belonging and comfort," said Professor Laura Hanish, deputy director of the Sanford School. "This helps students to engage and participate in school activities and, ultimately, the benefits are seen in students’ interest in and motivation for school and their achievement.” 

What’s unique in the Better Together Challenge is that students are the ones given the reins to be the change agents. The challenge asked students to craft a plan that would promote inclusiveness and equity to better both their school environment and the surrounding community. 

“We purposely created the Better Together Challenge in a way that allowed the students to identify the unique needs of their own schools and to create solutions that best address those needs,” Hanish said. “They pitch their ideas, and they are the ones playing an active role in putting their plans into action.”

The students at each school submitted their proposals, and five finalists were selected in February by a challenge review panel to put their plans into action from Feb.10 to April 20, receiving $300 to purchase needed materials or resources.

Students were guided by a faculty adviser and mentors within their community to help implement, document and measure the success of their project.

Students at Compadre Academy in Tempe — under the banner of their team, “K[IN]D” — developed a program to adopt a street, working to maintain a portion of Guadalupe Road in Tempe. They also brought in a plan to promote inclusiveness by creating a welcome ceremony for students transferring to their school, Hanish said.

The other four finalists included two middle schools and two high schools: Kino Junior High School in Mesa, Santan Junior High School in Chandler, Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix and Tempe High School.

On April 30, the review panel weighed the results of the finalists' projects and selected a winner. Compadre Academy received a $500 prize to sustain their project for another year. Runner-up Tempe High School received $200 and third-place winners Kino, Santan and Mountain Pointe received $100 each.

Better Together is part of the PROMISE InitiativePROMoting Inclusive and Safe Environments (PROMISE), a program of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, develops and disseminates programs and materials that support educators, parents, organizations, and communities to create environments that are inclusive, safe, and equitable., which fosters programs that speak to ASU’s larger goal of inclusiveness and embody the idea of connecting with communities through mutually beneficial partnerships.

“By partnering with local middle and high schools, we are creating an opportunity for diverse youth to connect with ASU faculty and graduate students and to translate research knowledge in ways that improve school environments,” Hanish said.

The 2018 Better Together Challenge was supported, in part, by Ms. Nikki Halle and T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. Looking ahead, The Better Together Challenge will continue and expand for the 2018-2019 academic year to include more school districts. 

Jamie Ell

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ASU Film Spark charts new course for young filmmakers with LA nonprofit

May 4, 2018

Herberger Institute film program offers access to education, career opportunities

Arizona State University is widening the lens for film education in Southern California. In collaboration with Film2Future, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to educating underserved youth in the film and creative industries, ASU Film Spark will help facilitate a two-week summer program designed by Film2Future to introduce L.A.-area high school students to the art of virtual reality production.

With access to facility space and mentorship at Film Spark’s home in the ASU California Center in Santa Monica, Film2Future students will write, direct and produce virtual reality content during the program, which will run from June 11–24. It’s a venture Film Spark’s executive director Adam Collis hopes will open more avenues for Film2Future and other Southern California students with an eye on film education.

“Our goal is to help them get to the next level and to provide students access to both higher education and the entertainment industry,” Collis said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to help prepare these new storytellers on emerging platforms like VR, as well as for their lives as college students.”

The collaboration between Film Spark and Film2Future kicked off in earnest with a special screening of the blockbuster "Black Panther" in late April. Screened simultaneously at AMC movie theater locations in Santa Monica and Tempe, Arizona, the event drew almost 200 high school students and ASU students, staff and alumni and featured a live talkback with "Black Panther" executive producer Nate Moore and film editor Michael Shawver. The session was moderated by Collis at AMC Santa Monica 7 and video linked to the Tempe audience at AMC Centerpoint 11.

Film Spark Director Adam Collis moderates a Q&A with film editor Michael Shawver and executive producer Nate Moore at a special screening of "Black Panther in Santa Monica on April 22, 2018.

Attendees included students involved in the Film2Future program as well as students from Santa Monica College, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars program.

The groups were invited to attend the event to mark the final installment of ASU Film Spark’s Spring 2018 Superhero Movie Speaker Series. Throughout the semester, the series allowed ASU students to interact with filmmakers and executives linked to some of Hollywood’s most successful superhero franchises. Previous guest speakers in the series included producers Hutch Parker ("Logan," "X-Men"), Larry Franco ("Batman Begins," "Hulk"), director Scott Derrickson ("Doctor Strange") and production designer Alex McDowell ("Man of Steel," "Watchmen").

Deepening ASU’s presence in Southern California, ASU Film Spark also hosted its first Los Angeles internship and job fair in collaboration with ASU Career Services, drawing more than 100 students and alumni to the ASU California Center in March.

Attendees had the opportunity to meet with representatives from 12 entertainment companies, including CBS Corporation, Hutch Parker Entertainment and Lionsgate. They were also invited to attend a post-job fair screening of the 2009 film "Star Trek" at the Laemmle Fine Arts Theatre that included a Q&A with Trevor Roth, chief operating officer of Roddenberry Entertainment. 

ASU Film Spark is a part of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre within ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The career accelerator program has produced several films —  "Car Dogs," "Justice Served" and "Postmarked" — as well as a growing list of notable alumni, including film editor Nick Ramirez, who worked on the Oscar-nominated film "Lady Bird" and David Breschel, producer of the Student Academy Award-winning student short "Mammoth," directed by Ariel Heller.

Offering degrees in film and media production and filmmaking practices, ASU’s School of Film Dance and Theatre has been named one of the fastest-growing film programs in the country. The school was ranked among the Top 50 Film Schools of 2017 by online trade publication TheWrap.com.

Top photo: ASU Film Spark director Adam Collis and students from the L.A.-based nonprofit Film2Future pose with "Black Panther" film editor Michael Shawver and executive producer Nate Moore at the AMC Santa Monica 7 in Santa Monica, California, on April 22, 2018. Photo by Lauren Elisabeth Photography. 

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