This week, we feature another wonderful organization doing great things for the community. Founded 10 years ago by Richard Jaeggi, Gandhi Brigade is an after school program that empowers young people in Montgomery County to use multimedia tools to promote community building, multicultural understanding and the common good. Gandhi Brigade believes that boosting our youth’s confidence and equipping them with the tools they need to discuss the complexities of daily life, empowers them to become leaders.
At the heart of the Gandhi Brigade is their “Promoters” program. The Promoters are a group of young people who dedicate a year to using their media skills to engage in issues they care about. The results are documentaries, PSAs and graphic design campaigns. The Promoters program also emphasizes the mastery of public speaking, group facilitation, critical thinking and communications. Gandhi Brigade provides a safe place youth can come after school with adult supervision and mentally stimulating activities.
Youth and media: building skills, empowering leaders
Living in the digital age, young people engage in media every day. Gandhi Brigade teaches them how to do it safely, says Evan Glass, Gandhi Brigade’s executive director. At Gandhi Brigade, youth voices matter. Media training and production gives youth in the program the chance to have their voices heard on complex social issues affecting their community. Last year, participants in the program produced, “Juvenile Justice: The Road to Reform,” a film on Maryland’s criminal justice system. The film was the winner of the 2016 DC Independent Film Festival and was presented at several other film festivals across the country.
With Gandhi Brigade, young people young people take on leadership roles during the project’s conception and through its development. The process gives them valued lessons in communication. “Part of the media-making process is determining what messages to convey, whether it is in written text or video and photography,” says Glass. As a former journalist and producer, Glass makes a point to teach the participants about ethics. He talks them about media biases and how to convey their messages in the most respectful way possible.
Community building in Montgomery County
The diverse community of Montgomery County has been supportive of Gandhi Brigade, says Glass. There are youth in the county that need safe and supervised after school activities. Those with an interest in media production may not have the means to own their own equipment or have the resources to channel their creative thoughts. Gandhi Brigade provides all of that.
Gandhi Brigade hosts an annual Youth Media Festival to showcase youth voices across Montgomery County. The festival takes place at the AFI theater in Silver Spring and attracts youth, parents and media professionals from the Washington Metropolitan area. Categories include documentary films, narrative films and environmental films. This year, Gandhi Brigade had hundreds of submissions from 500 students in the area.