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Youth Cinema Project (YCP) Founder Edward James Olmos Visits Echo Valley Elementary YCP Students

Academy Award-nominated actor Edward James Olmos visited North Monterey County Unified School District Youth Cinema Project at Echo Valley Elementary School on May 26, 2022.



The goal of the Youth Cinema Project is to enhance a student's education and to turn students into more engaged learners.  The Youth Cinema Project uses filmmaking as a vehicle to inspire students to write and tell their own stories, think creatively and critically in the classroom, and develop the discipline to make a film product out of their writing.  The Youth Cinema Project enables students to learn classroom content, while honing their communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

North Monterey County Unified School District began our partnership with YCP in 2016 when our Board of Trustees attended Mr. Olmos’ presentation at the California School Boards Association’s annual conference.  Immediately it was determined that this would help our students develop their voice and tell their stories.   It began in one elementary classroom which then expanded to the middle school.  This school year YCP is offered at all four elementary schools and the middle school.  Next, our film production pathway will expand to the high school and beyond to local college and industry.  YCP has also been included in our summer program which has allowed additional students and staff members to participate.   

 “Our students bring their own backgrounds and culture that embrace storytelling as an art form and it is a means to empower one’s voice, to speak their truth, to share their experiences.  The goal is to ensure the next generation develops the skills needed to thrive and define their own future!”  stated Superintendent, Kari Yeater.  The majority of our students come from underrepresented backgrounds and are economically disadvantaged, and yet they graduate from high school and find a career/college pathway.  The district has actively recruited our recent graduates to help us capture what our students are learning and how this is changing their future.  Our YCP students are models for using film to communicate what is happening in the schools, district and our local community. They truly demonstrate and communicate the skills they have developed. 

The YCP is 100% a student lead, student run program. There are no adults writing, holding the cameras, or deciding on the shots.  The ultimate goal is for our students to become self-directed learners, while finding their voices and creating social emotional empowerment.  In our project based learning, the films are not the project, the students themselves are. "I had an extraordinary time with the NMCSD staff, teachers and especially with the kids. We have a long standing relationship with the district that we cherish and value. I love being in the classrooms and witnessing the impact our program has. I am excited to watch the North Monterey movies and can't wait to come back!" stated Mr. Olmos

Youth Cinema Project Students from Elkhorn, Castroville, Prunedale, Echo Valley, and the middle school have been invited to attend YCP LEGACY, the student film festival component within The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) on June 4Each year, the Youth Cinema Project students premiere their short films and participate in special events and workshops led by industry professionals. Our student filmmakers will participate in question and answer sessions, workshops, and are celebrated among their peers during the film screening.

Kannon Rodgers from Prunedale Elementary School,  Natalie Guzman, from Echo Valley Elementary School and Shreya Kumar from North Monterey County Middle School have been chosen as special guests for LALIFF Legacy! These students will participate in special workshops where they will work alongside industry professionals in Hollywood.