Anacostia Students Learn Real-World Skills Through Digital Media 

January 21, 2011

Anacostia Digital Media Club
Anacostia students discuss potential topics to highlight in their digital media arts club.
Digital Media Club 2
The entire digital media club celebrates their accomplishments at an event hosted by a local university.

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For the students in the Digital Media Arts Club at Anacostia High School, the Internet is more than just an opportunity to check a classmate’s Facebook status, download music or research information for a homework assignment. Danielle Scruggs has taught them that it’s an opportunity to empower themselves.

Ms. Scruggs is a fellow of Public Media Corps (PMC), a new national service program that promotes the use of technology in underserved communities. 

Ms. Scruggs and another PMC fellow are spending the school year leading the Anacostia Digital Media Arts Club, which provides students with the opportunity to express themselves online through podcasts, photography, and audio and video projects.

“Something we really want to emphasize is the fact that whatever the students’ interests are, there also is a digital and new media component to it,” she said. “They don’t just have to be a consumer of whatever cool thing they see online or on Facebook – they can actually create that thing and create opportunities for themselves.”

PMC first came to Anacostia at the end of the summer, intent to start their work for the 2010-11 school year. La Vaughn Turner, a social worker at Anacostia, took interest in the PMC’s endeavors and the opportunity it presented for his students.

Mr. Turner also leads the Anacostia SuperLeaders Program, a community-based program that encourages students to make positive life choices and promotes college readiness. In this role, Mr. Turner facilitates discussions among students about different challenges they and their peers face.

He saw the Digital Media Arts Club as an opportunity for students to lead discussions and express themselves through a medium that is relevant to them.

As a result, Mr. Turner encouraged the students he works with in his capacity as a social worker and as the leader of SuperLeaders to join the club. He said he believes the experience has been positive for the students.

“I have several students in mind who I have seen progress in and who demonstrate more assertiveness and confidence in their work,” Mr. Turner said.

He also said there are many students who were interested in digital and new media, but who didn’t have an outlet or the tools to pursue their interest.

Through the club, students learn real-world skills for working in a high tech world.

“That’s where so many different jobs are now, in new media,” said Ms. Scruggs. “Or even basic resources. If you want to renew your driver’s license – it’s online.”

While preparing themselves for the world post-high school, the students also are discussing serious topics. Approximately 15 students come together weekly to discuss issues like violence, relationships, verbal abuse and how Anacostia has changed over the years.

The students vote on topics to discuss, create a few guiding questions and then just talk – sometimes filmed by the PMC fellows and other times just recorded for audio.

“Once we turned on the audio recorder, we had a lot of really great discussions,” said Ms. Scruggs. “A lot of the questions they answered and asked each other were really thought out. It showed how sensitive they are to their environment, and what they are seeing and experiencing.”

Ms. Scruggs said she was nervous to come to Anacostia because she didn’t have any teaching experience and feared that she would let down the students. As the meetings progressed, she said that fear fell to the wayside.

“It actually was a lot of fun working with the kids, getting to know their different backgrounds and the challenges they face to get where they are,” said Ms. Scruggs. “Most of the students who came regularly are junior and seniors. Knowing everything that they faced over the past four years – it was really humbling.”

Mardez Davis, a senior at Anacostia, said he likes graphic design and thanks to the club, he has the opportunity to work on digital media projects.

“I just took advantage of the club,” he said. “I have fun with it every time I come.”

Ms. Scruggs said one especially impactful moment was when Mardez talked to his peers about when he dropped out of school in ninth grade. He decided to re-enroll in school after learning how hard it is to get anywhere without a high school diploma.

Mardez currently is exploring colleges and wants to pursue a career in graphic design.

You can read part of his story on the PMC Web site or on The People's District which profiles residents in the District.

PMC’s service at Anacostia originally was supposed to end in December. Thanks to a program extension by PMC, the Digital Media Arts Club will continue through March.

With that extension, Ms. Scruggs said the club will be more involved in creating content, like writing for the club’s blog or filming video. They also will work on a project that follows the students as they finish high school and prepare to graduate.

To see for yourself what the students at Anacostia’s Digital Media Arts Club are doing, you can visit their blog.


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