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Mon Valley Films Shown at CCAC

Katie Miller will be a senior at Steel Valley High School in the fall. For five months this winter and spring, she and a group of nine fellow students explored the question, "Does where you live dictate your level of success in the future?" The result is a documentary that will be shown Sunday at the CCAC South campus, along with six other films produced through CMU's Hear Me 101 project. Miller believes this is stuff people need to talk about.

"They're used to brushing these topics under the rug, not dealing with it, like if they are not personally seeing it… they are not dealing with it," said Miller. "They'll see something on the news and spend a few seconds feeling bad and then move on."

The film has already been shown to the Steel Valley School Board. Miller said it was met with a few eye rolls, but she knows the racial and socioeconomic undertones dealt with in the documentary must be addressed if the stereotype of the problematic Mon Valley is ever going to be replaced with one of a successful and productive community.

"You've got to get used to talking about this stuff. It's not going to go away," said Miller.

Jessica Pachuta runs the Hear Me project. In the past, students have explored important issues through audio documentaries and writing. Billboards have even been used to get the youth's messages to the public. However, this is the first time they have tried video.

No matter what the medium, Pachuta said it is important to pay attention to our youth.

"They are not as naïve as we always think they are," said Pachuta. "They're very astute. They're very aware… and they want people to hear what they have to say."

The mission of the Hear Me project is to get kids' voices heard by adults and to build a culture that values what kids have to say. Pachuta has made a commitment to the students that elected officials and community members will see their films.

However, she said, the program is not just about the final product.

"These students went out and met their mayors and their superintendents and interviewed them for these projects, and those are relationships they have never had before," said Pachuta. "I think that we are going to see some changes in those communities."

Katie Miller knows she has changed. "I'm not a 'people person,' and with this project I learned how to talk to people… I walked out of this with things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life."

All or portions of the seven films will be shown starting at 6:00 PM Sunday at the B building auditorium on CCAC's South campus.

Clairton High School

McKeesport High School

Woodland Hills High School

Steel Valley High School