Last fall, youth in the Juvenile Recovery Court in Clark County, WA, got a chance to tell their stories on film. Six participants received training in "digital storytelling" and, with the help of court staff, and a prevention specialist, they turned their 250-word personal stories into powerful video presentations. Their efforts were given great coverage in the Dec. 27, 2010 issue of The Columbian.
Below is a joint interview with the three people who made this amazing project happen for these youth: Bradley Finegood, LMHC (at left, above), who coordinates Clark County's Superior Court therapeutic specialty courts; Angela Zahas, a county prevention specialist (far right, above); and Anna Lookingbill, the Juvenile Recovery Court's resource coordinator (see middle, above).
Q: What is digital storytelling? How is it different from making a video?
Anna: There's two layers to digital storytelling. The first is the technical component, such as learning the software. (We used low-cost or free software, such as a free audio program called Audacity, and Microsoft's photo editing program.)
But there's also a pretty significant component around, "What's the story you want to tell?" How do you tell it in a way that has emotional impact on people?
So when you teach it, it’s a layered thing – there's a technical piece, plus storytelling.
Brad: It was a small initial investment that will continue to pay dividends. Once Angela was trained on digital storytelling, it could be replicated. We could train others at a low cost – outside of human capital – for what could be an extremely powerful project. There's no fees we have to pay, no manuals we have to buy – so it just made a lot of sense. It's a long-term buy-in to people’s recovery.
On a side note, the kids who went through this started out extremely closed, but they opened up, smiled, they shared – so that’s something priceless when you talk about youth from the juvenile justice side of it.