Just four miles from Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, young filmmakers are learning to bring their stories to life through the Youth Cinema Project at Santa Ana High School.
Chapman University supports the Santa Ana program with one-on-one mentorship, access to equipment and a chance to meet with Chapman staff and faculty. Additionally, Chapman is providing up to 10 scholarships per year to Santa Ana High students in the Youth Cinema Project.
The first scholarship recipient was Miguel Mendoza ‘23, who started at Chapman last fall. This year, Viridiana Valadez ‘24 is attending through the same program and pursuing a degree in screenwriting. She received the Edward James Olmos Grant and also attended the Summer Film Academy at Dodge College during summer 2019.
The Youth Cinema Project “opened my eyes into the film world,” says Viridiana Valadez ’24
Valadez lauded the Youth Cinema Project for providing valuable connections, including to mentors who “opened my eyes into the film world,” she said. “My film teacher added onto that by introducing us to Chapman.”
The Youth Cinema Project was founded by the Latino Film Institute to bridge the achievement and opportunity gaps in today’s film industry. The program aims to add diverse voices to the industry and to build the skills, portfolio and social connections that young filmmakers need to succeed.
“Hollywood shapes culture and the development of societal norms, but it does not reflect the diversity of our society. Equity and access issues have kept minorities from telling their stories on Hollywood screens,” the Youth Cinema Project says on its website.
Dodge College is making a concerted effort to ensure that diverse perspectives are heard at Chapman and in Hollywood. Recent Dodge College faculty hires include 16 professors of color, 11 of them women. In addition, a new Chapman Mentorship Program is providing opportunities to outstanding students from underserved communities.
Although close to 75% of graduates at Santa Ana High School go on to get a post-secondary education, only 14% attend a four-year university. Chapman’s support of the Youth Cinema Project gives Santa Ana High students a direct pathway to the university.
“Chapman and our Office of Admission are here to serve our backyard communities, and so we’re building bridges of equity and access,” said Christian Aguilar, assistant director of Diversity Initiatives at Chapman.
Aguilar also noted that graduates of the Youth Cinema Project add value to the broader community by contributing their cultural, storytelling and familial capital.
“Through our collaborative efforts with the Santa Ana High School-YCP program, we are creating opportunities and changing lives,” Aguilar said.
Student scholarships are made possible by donations to the CU Safely Back Fund. To learn more about ways the university is supporting students and providing resources they need for a meaningful educational experience, visit the CU Safely Back Fund page.