William Smith Alumna Gives Voice to Louisiana Boys – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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William Smith Alumna Gives Voice to Louisiana Boys

The lives of young boys living in Baton Rouge inspires William Smith alumna to begin creating video documentary.

April 17, 2002 BATON ROUGE, La.—Elizabeth Masten, a 2000 graduate of William Smith College, believes that the underprivileged African-American youth of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, have compelling, inspiring stories to tell. Therefore, Masten and a colleague have undertaken the Youth Documentary Project, which chronicles the process in which a young African-American boy becomes an African-American leader.

Masten, who entered the Teach for America (TFA) program two days after her graduation from William Smith, has been teaching in the Baton Rouge school district since then. Her experiences inspired her and a fellow TFA colleague to examine the lives of African-American boys from a variety of backgrounds that are united through their participation in the Young Leaders’ Academy, a Baton Rouge not-for-profit agency.

Masten, a native of Williamsport, Pa., called the film’s topic “refreshing and unique.”

“Some [of these boys] have experienced more challenges in the first 10 years of their lives than most experience in a lifetime. However, theirs are voices that often goes unheard,” Masten said. “It is my goal to let them speak for themselves.”

Thus far, the project has gained the support of the Baton Rouge community. Masten has worked with Louisiana Public Broadcasting cinematographers to put together a 10-minute sample footage reel that has sparked interest from several outlets including HBO. Masten has raised approximately $30,000 in Baton Rouge and seeks to raise an additional $170,000 to meet production costs.

Although Masten’s two-year commitment to Teach for America has ended, she plans to stay on an extra year in Louisiana to film the documentary.

“Every day we stand in front of children whose spirits, energies, intellects, and potential surface amidst great obstacles that they confront in their homes, neighborhoods, and ultimately in the larger society,” she said. “Their resiliency amazes me while their struggles fuel my passion for change.”

Those who would like more information on the Youth Documentary Project, or would like to request a sample of the work in progress, can contact Masten at Right Quick Productions, 632 University Walk #3, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, (225) 802-8708 or at rightquickproductions@hotmail.com.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are coordinate, private, liberal arts institutions, located in Geneva, N.Y. that are noted also for an ambitious emphasis on international study, and community service. Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women share faculty, facilities, and curriculum, but maintain separate dean's offices, athletics programs, student governments, and traditions.