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Avenues Silicon Valley’s First Student Film Festival

For one of their first projects at their new school, the students of Avenues Silicon Valley’s Founding Class Program were challenged to make documentary films telling the stories of underrepresented communities in San Jose.

In this interdisciplinary unit of study, titled “DocHUMANtary San Jose,” students got to grips with every stage of the video production process, from research to shooting to post-production. Like professional filmmakers, they were also given the opportunity to showcase their work in a film festival.

Interdisciplinary project teachers Katy Garnier and Carolyn Woulfe guided students through the process from beginning to end. Students began by exploring the diverse communities of San Jose–from Japanese Americans to Mexican Americans to the area’s native people, the Ohlones–and deciding which group to highlight in their films. Students then reached out to local organizations affiliated with those groups, to learn more about their presence in San Jose and seek interview subjects for their films.

True to Avenues’ approach to learning, this hands-on project helped students develop practical skills while providing them with a platform for meaningful creative exploration. In addition to gaining valuable experience of the craft of filmmaking (including the all-important communication skills required for interviewing strangers), students explored the way individual and collective identities are woven into the broader history of the United States.

The project culminated with Avenues Silicon Valley’s first student film festival, held on the site of our future campus on Meridian Avenue, which is due to open in fall 2024. The festival was attended by students, families, faculty and community partners, as well as some very special guests: the subjects of the students’ films. Students walked down the red carpet, shared their films with their peers and families and even received an Oscars-style trophy from their teachers at the end of the evening.

“Seeing my film on the big screen was definitely kind of overwhelming,” said Perk, an 8th grader at Avenues Silicon Valley. “When the teachers gave us thanks for the hard work we’ve done over the past few weeks, it was definitely a good feeling.”