A behind-the-scenes look at how one school’s WE Volunteer Now campaign made it to the big screen.
By Amy Van Es
“This whole thing came about when a WE speaker came to our school to talk to Student Council” says teacher Melonie Magruder. The sound of Brighton Hall’s Burbank campus, abuzz with students rushing to finish their latest project, echoes in the background as she speaks. “They got fired up!” she laughs.
As for exactly what WE started in the classrooms of Brighton Hall… that goes back to a simple concept: students interested in changing their local and global community + WE Schools annual campaigns = a more compassionate world.
With the WE Volunteer Now campaign—the campaign we’re going to explore through Brighton Hall’s story—your school can choose to support whatever cause resonates with its students, all you have to do is add an action plan. This means pinpointing an issue you see as affecting your community and readying yourself to make a positive impact.
In the case of Brighton Hall, students decided to channel their change-making through a medium they were already passionate about: the arts.
Based a stone’s throw away from the bright lights of Hollywood, it’s no surprise that the student body here should been keen on the big screen. “Many of our students work in the entertainment business, so they decided to make a short film about an issue that really concerns them,” explains the educator. Their topic of choice was mental health, and a student named Madison De La Garza stepped up as the script writer, with classmate Logan Binstock acting as the film’s director.
The film, which you can (and totally should) watch here, is 20 minutes of thought-provoking dialogue on mental health. It follows the life of protagonist Devin Marks as she “navigates her way through every day sophomore life, haunted by her controlling best friend, Tessa” writes Madison in the film’s synopsis. “When Devin finds herself failing classes, pushing people away, and giving up her dream career in modeling, she’s forced to finally get help.”
Step 1: Get a team!
When it comes to WE Schools campaigns, the first thing you need to do is assemble a team to make your action plan come to life. For Brighton Hall’s project to become a reality, Madison and Logan needed a crew. So, they put out an open call to find peers also passionate about mental health, and received a groundswell of support. From directors of photography to gaffers to hair and make-up artists, students put their hands up to work 20-hour days in order to finish the film in time for its big premiere.
Step 2: Use official campaign resources to support your creative vision.
WE was along for the ride, watching in utter awe as the film came together bit by bit. The students brought an abundance of creativity, and we provided resources, such as classroom activities, to enable them. “When you tackle a project, it can feel like a big, overwhelming task. But WE showed the kids how to define what the problem is,” explains Melonie. “[It] helped [them] find a solution using the passions that are innate within them. They were encouraged to believe that even though they were teenagers with little resources, they could accomplish this themselves.”
The teacher beams as she continues to gush about her students’ accomplishments through WE Volunteer Now—and the opportunities lessons in compassion reveal to all those involved.
Step 3: Seize the opportunity to learn.
“We are such an incredible upcoming generation of creative and skillful kids,” says Logan. “The focus [of this program] is on bettering the world starting from a young age.” With the teen and her friends about to enter the workforce, learning the skills to shape the world they want to live in is imperative. For Logan, to have been able to pick up these lessons in high school has been “amazing.”