On Saturday, March 30, the New York Film Academy hosted the graduation of the Duke Youth Media Camp class of 2019. The Media Camp—which kicked off its collaboration with NYFA on January 26 at our Los Angeles campus—is sponsored by the Duke Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Bill Duke in 2010.
Bill Duke, a filmmaking instructor at NYFA, is a veteran director and actor, known for high-profile roles in several television series and films, including American Gigolo, Black Lightning, Mandy, Predator, and X-Men: The Last Stand. He’ll also set to appear in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film, High Flying Bird. At the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, Duke was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his film, A Rage in Harlem.
The partnership between the Duke Media Foundation and New York Film Academy began in 2016, and their joint-effort Duke Youth Media Camp seeks to train and empower teens through hands-on instruction and by teaching students the tools and skills needed in a constantly evolving media environment. The Duke Media Foundation and NYFA aim to help inner-city youth become more competitive with those who’ve typically had greater access to the education and equipment needed in a television, film, and digital media landscape.
The 2019 graduation ceremony was the largest ever with 16 graduates instead of the usual 12. When Duke Media instructor Lee Davis spoke to the students and their proud parents, he shared that this was the most talented group of students he had ever seen in the program.
Michael Sandoval, a NYFA instructor involved in the program, added, “It was a pleasure to work with this group of students,” and said that the only time the students were ever told to quiet down was when they were laughing too loudly because they were having such a good time.
Echoing Davis and Sandoval, Media Camp co-founder Carl Gilliard said, “I am so full today.” He continued, “Build a name that commands something [but] don’t forget to give back.”
Paul Caruso from Lost Kids of Los Angeles Inc., one of the sponsors of the program, gave some advice to the graduates: “Make sure the world is a better place tomorrow than it was today … pay it forward.” After some words of wisdom, Caruso surprised the graduates with brand new Dell laptops—a gift from DHL, one of LKLA’s partners. Caruso shared that he wanted to make sure the students had the tools to help them be as successful as possible in the internet age.
The students were then asked to speak about what they learned from the camp; many spoke about how much they enjoyed trying out every aspect of filmmaking and about the friends they made. One student, Lexi Sherwood, spoke to one of the deeper aspects of the program: “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?”
At the end of the ceremony, Bill Duke spoke to the students, saying, “I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You’re part of our family forever.” Following one of the themes of the afternoon, he added, “Don’t forget those that didn’t have the same opportunities that you did.”
The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate this year’s Duke Youth Media Camp graduates and thanks the Duke Media Foundation for creating this wonderful opportunity for these aspiring storytellers.