Project MyVoice meets a packed house at Bijou Theater

On May 28th 2013, Project MyVoice debuted the first screening of Autism Rocks to a packed house of 106 people and even had to turn some away. The air was thick with anticipation to see how the two month experience concluded. Through flickering lights, seven different stories about Autism Rocks encouraged the audience to laugh when prompted, smile when provoked and absorb the messages of the captivating stories. The 35 minute screening concluded with a “meet and greet” of all the Project MyVoice producers and the Autism Rocks members featured in the film. Thanks to the Kilkenny Service and Leadership Fund from the Holden Center for providing the funds for advertising, renting the Bijou Theater and participate incentive,  Laughing Planet for matching donations and gifting those involved by treating them to dinner and the Bijou Theater for gifting movie tickets to the producers, this event was a true success.

The screening not only successfully featured Autism Rocks, it illustrated a continued need for community service projects like Project MyVoice in the evolving field of journalism.  As noted by Alina Padilla-Miller, doctoral student and creator of Project MyVoice, “For the last seven years I have seen journalism change because of digital media.  I have seen students become masters of storytelling, masters of technology and masters of distribution.  I have seen students capture amazing stories and present them beautifully.  But, what I haven’t really seen is an investment into community.  I haven’t seen too many students integrate for a reasonable amount of time to truly get to know the people of their story.  For two months, 16 undergraduate and 2 graduate students from the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon became members of Autism Rocks.  We attended events, met with the board, exchanged ideas and together we created this project with Autism Rocks.”

Beyond the benefit of teaching civic journalism to students is the impact this type of project has on the community.  According to Mary-Minn Sirag, President of KindTree-Autism Rocks, “The students did an excellent job interviewing me. They asked excellent questions and put me at ease by giving me plenty of time to warm up and talk. The films were inspiring, beautiful, and captured the essence of KindTree-Autism Rocks. The soundtrack was very fitting, and the editing superb. The publicity materials were excellent, with beautiful graphic design that was striking and easy to grok from a distance. The publicity team got it in all the local papers and brought in people who knew nothing about Autism Rocks.”

If you would like to view all seven of the final videos featured at the screening of this project please visit our YouTube channel uoprojectmyvoice.



Getting invovled with Project MyVoice

One Student’s Experience
By: Megan Dougherty

This spring has been the kickoff to a new project that utilizes the skills of 18 students at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication for the good of the community. As part of the civic journalism movement Project MyVoice is empowering students to give a “voice” to underrepresented groups in Lane County through digital storytelling. This project is funded by the  Kilkenny Service and Leadership Fund/Holden Center. This spring the focus of Project MyVoice is the local nonprofit, KindTree-Autism Rocks. The accumulation of the project is a free public screening that will be held at the Bijou theater on May 28th from 5-6 PM.

KindTree-Autism Rocks serves as a community for individuals with autism. They have an art program, summer camps, events throughout the year, and even a support group for friends and family of people with autism which all aim to serve and celebrate the autistic community. Project MyVoice’s wants to celebrate and bring public awareness to this wonderful organization and all the people involved.

Nieco Biggi, a senior advertising major at the University of Oregon considers it an honor to be a part of such a project. Biggi is working with a team of other students to produce a video capturing the essence of KindTree-Autism Rocks. In the video they will show the key components of the organization, focusing on the people behind the scenes whose vision and heart have provided the autistic community with such a needed resource.

Biggi views the project not as another project to add to his professional portfolio, but as his way to help. He loves the community this organization has created and believes that his part in producing the video will bring light to a very worthy cause. Biggi grew up friends of a family who had children with autism and some of his cousins have a social disability. “People with autism have always been close to my heart,”  he said.

“I think that one thing that stands out the most (about KindTree-Autism Rocks) is how amazing the community is,” Biggi said. “I’m just completely astonished. The way it started, the way it’s carried on, the board members.” For his video, Biggi has spent time interviewing the founders, president, and board members of KindTree-Autism Rocks in order to get a clear idea of the purpose behind the organization.

After he graduates this spring, Biggi hopes to begin his career as an account manager for an advertising firm. He enjoys taking a leadership role and helping group members to work towards a “big picture” product. Project MyVoice has been a great opportunity for him to do just that. But even more, his video production for the project is giving a voice to the local autistic community.  “I just want to make a little bit of a difference,” he said, “that is my overall goal.”

Meet the teams of Project MyVoice

For Project MyVoice to be successful, it was important to match the most qualified journalism students with the task/assignments that needed to be covered within the project.  Attending one of the Autism Rocks board meetings, Project MyVoice creator, Alina Padilla-Miller, identified and outlined the top five categories needed for giving “voice” to Autism Rocks. The following categories emerged as the most significant and obtainable for this production.

PR/Writing and Advertisement for Project MyVoice:
This category required students to work on press releases, writing article for digital media channels, website content creation, flyers, posters and banners, social media and the overview/promo of Project MyVoice.  The following students stood out among the applicants and were selected for these roles.
Personal Stories- A Day in the Life with Autism:
With a large part of Project MyVoice revolving around the personal narrative, it was important for the right independent media producers be matched up with the consenting participant of Autism Rocks.  With the help of Jennifer Wassermiller and other board members, three students were selected to feature these stories.
  • Sreang “C” Hok, a talented and effective digital storyteller, worked on two stories with two artists on the autism spectrum.
  • Dillon Piloget, a senior focused on digital storytelling, captured a story on Jed Shapiro and Ryan Crain.  Both of these young men with aspergers do a mean Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin impersonation.
  • Guru Amar Khalsa, a senior focused on multimedia production, is featuring TR Kelly of the Raventones and Steel Wool bands.  TR Kelly, also on the autism spectrum,  not only plays a mean bass she also acts as a great role model for young people on the spectrum.
About Autism Rocks:
Giving an overview to what Austim Rocks is, why it’s different from other autism groups and what they do required special attention within this production.  Doctoral student and facilitator for this section, Mickey Stellavato came to Project MyVoice as an advocate for digital storytelling here in Lane County.  She has worked with the Trauma Healing Project, and presently works for the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC).
The emphasis of this section was to create a studio production where lighting, audio and the set were controlled. Students on this team embarked on scheduling and conducting interviews, studio production and editing.  The following students were selected for this time consuming and critical story.
STiLE (Skills Training for an Independent Living Experience):
The need for this section was communicated by Molly Elliott, the director of STiLE at the Autism Rocks board meeting.  STiLE is an offshoot of Autism Rocks and just getting established this year.  Focused on a series of trainings in life skills and recreational subjects, STiLE needed everything from logo design, branding, brochure development and professional donor packet.  In addition to this, they also needed some exposure of a class they are presently running.  As noted by Molly, every Monday at Washington Park, women and mothers of adult children on the autism spectrum meet for a jewelry making class. This class is being featured as one of the digital stories in the final video for the screening. The following students are working on this section.
Starry Night Prom:
The last category in this project is the adult fundraiser for Autism Rocks called the “Starry Night Prom”.  This fundraiser, on May 18th 2013, is designed to raise awareness of Autism Rocks and to help raise funds for their annual summer camp.  The following students will be working on covering the prom, beyond the scenes, and providing a personal narrative of someone attending the prom.

What is Project MyVoice?

As part of the civic journalism movement, Project MyVoice connects socially responsible and community-minded UO journalism students with underrepresented groups in Lane county that want to have “voice”. Through the art of digital storytelling and the practice of community engagement, heart warming and thought provoking stories are produced by journalism students and shared through a free public screenings at the Bijou theater each term. From the PR, advertising, video production and event planning, Project MyVoice is entirely run by students to help give voice.

We are happy to announce that our first feature group is  Autism Rocks!

~Project MyVoice was the 2012/2013 recipient of the Kilkenny Service and Leadership Fund .~