Philadelphia Youth Media Collaborative


Teaching Media Literacy for Youth Empowerment in Philadelphia Public High Schools

September 16, 2013 by admin in Feature, PYMC Supported Projects

The following is a post from The University Community Collaborative as they reflect on their experience of developing and organizing media literacy workshops at Philadelphia high schools.


Media Literacy for Youth Empowerment in Philadelphia Public High Schools

By University Community Collaborative

This past spring the University Community Collaborative (UCC) received a grant from the Philadelphia Youth Media Collaborative to facilitate media literacy workshops at three local high schools: Kipp Charter School, Franklin Learning Center and El Centro del Estudiantes. Recent Temple graduates and POPPYN Leader Core members Jessica Arce and Dominique Spooner, co-developed and led the workshops under the guidance of UCC Media Manager Nuala Cabral.

Jess Arce explains, “Our whole goal with POPPYN is to reach the youth of the city that are used to being ignored, and give them the opportunity to share their perspective. In order to do this, it is important to help them develop the skills needed to understand the world around them. Media literacy is a powerful and much needed skill.”


What was your highlight from this experience?

Arce: The best thing about these media literacy workshops is watching the students figure things out for themselves. We act as a guide and nudge them down the right path of understanding, but the students do all the work themselves. It is refreshing and encouraging to see the students put the pieces together, and learn how to dissect the media around them. It is also awesome to see how the students played off of each other’s revelations, so the whole process was a team effort – another skill we wish to help the students develop.

Spooner: The several media classes I taught this past May provided me with great fulfillment. We explored topics of sex in the media, undertones in billboards, and questioning the messages behind all media. The highlight of my experience was receiving feedback from the students on a specific media piece. I specifically liked to hear what they had to say about the light-skin versus dark-skin club flyer.

Cabral: My highlight of the experience was seeing Dominique and Jessica grow more confident in their facilitation skills with each workshop. It was also exciting to watch students explore questions around media ownership and issues of media representation.


What was your low light?

Arce: As a

Leader Core member of the University Community Collaborative, I usually work with the same students. I know my students and how to work with them. This is the first time I have facilitated a workshop with students that I have never met, and in front of such a large group. We were also entering a classroom setting,

and I know that a big advantage if POPPYN is that we try to stray from a school atmosphere, which youth tend to be more responsive to. Going into it, I was nervous. However, working with Nuala and Dom was awesome, and the tag team effort that we put into it made the facilitation a lot smoother than I expected.

Spooner: A low-light I did experience happened during the second workshop I taught. There I was met with blank stares and some resistance to participation. I feel that if we included a worksheet that went along with the PowerPoint then things would have gone a lot smoother. On the worksheet there should have been several questions pertaining to the different pieces of media. We could then have everyone read their responses out loud creating a dialogue.

Cabral: I think one low light was our lack of time. We tried to cover a lot of ground, but this meant we weren’t always able to dig deep. Ideally, we would have a series of workshops so that we could accomplish more. These workshops were an effective introduction, however.

What did you learn from this experience?

Arce: I got to learn more about myself as an educator as the students learned more about the world around them. I believe that the students enjoyed the workshop because it is relevant to their realities. More of these POPPYN media literacy workshops means that we are not only sharing the youth perspective, but also teaching youth outside of our programming how to develop their own perspectives.

Cabral: I was also reminded of the importance of distributing feedback forms to students. Constructive feedback is invaluable as we continue to grow these workshops in our community. It was interesting and sometimes surprising to see what aspects of the workshop resonated most with students.

Spooner: I can say I honestly learned more about the minds of our youth. They have opinions and have things of substance to say. Media affects them and they are aware of those effects. I think our presentation was a way to call them to action.

**To watch a 5-minute video which documents the workshop process, please email Nuala Cabra at tub75961 (at) for access to the link.



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