July 2017: M-Passioned Member Elena Chernock

What do you do?
I am an artist, consultant and educator. I have been designing and directing creative youth development programming in under-resourced communities both abroad and in the Unites States for the last eight years. Before that, I graduated from Emerson College in 2005 with a degree in Visual and Media Arts. Following graduation, I worked in film and television production in Los Angeles, CA for five years before following my passion for social justice and education. This led me abroad to the position of Director of Artistic Programming in Nicaragua for a small NGO. When I moved to Guatemala City for three years to serve as the Creative Expression Coordinator for a large educational non-profit, I brought in photography and other forms of media by securing access to the equipment and expanding the curriculum. After moving back to the Unites States, I completed a Master of Fine Arts degree from Seattle University where my summary project focused on media literacy and civic engagement. After graduating, I served as the Programming Director at Youth in Focus where I coached Photography Teaching Artists, supported curriculum development, built community partnerships and initiated new workshops, such as a photographic intergenerational project. I now work as consultant to evaluate arts education programming and as a teaching artist in mixed media, using photography, video and other visual art forms to empower my students to share their stories and voice with the larger community.

Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
Outside of leading youth oriented photography workshops, I am currently preparing to lead the Yesler Terrace Youth Media Project in Seattle, WA this summer. YT Media is an annual summer workshop that uses photography & video to give local youth and community members the opportunity to document the impact of gentrification & displacement in their communities. I am designing a curriculum for this summer where youth will be challenged to create media based portraits that reflects their identity in relationship to their community.

Why is media literacy important to you?
My background in film and photography as both a student and later, as a practitioner, afforded me the ability early on to view my surroundings through a critical lens. In the 21st Century, media arts is potentially the most impactful art form to share a message and influence the way people view the world.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
As the digital divide closes and the tools become more accessible, I am excited about the role media literacy has in youth development as a form of civic engagement and social justice. Digital storytelling can activate both personal and collective empowerment. I am particularly interested in how participatory media arts programs can be harnessed as a conduit to community organizing and collective action.

Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I joined NAMLE to be part of a network of media literacy educators and advocates. When a colleague sent me the link to the website, I jumped at the opportunity to be able to access news and resources directly related to my area of interest and expertise. NAMLE helps to bring all of us passionate media educators together to create a collective movement and I am thrilled to be a part of it and participate in any way possible.

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