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Montgomery Co. students use documentaries to make a difference

Montgomery County students in the "Gandhi Brigade" put together a documentary film, Monday, Aug. 7, 2017 (ABC7 photo)

The films explore topics that range from police conduct to Maryland's criminal justice system. Merry Hailegeorggies, a sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School explained, "We have different perspectives that maybe the adults don't have or media today doesn't have." ABC7 News recently captured the high school students in Montgomery County as they gathered to create a film about immigration.

Their hope is to educate and influence. Evan Glass, a former CNN producer has been Executive Director of Gandhi Brigade Youth Media for three years. "The youth in Gandhi Brigade really try to find solutions to the problems in their community and they do that through a journalistic lens of investigation, of documentary, and of advocacy," he offered.

The non-profit, after-school and summer programs use multimedia to forge connectedness and multicultural understanding. After the students chose their topic, they conducted research and created a mission statement which read, "This documentary will show the struggles and break stereotypes about immigrants."

For five weeks the Documentary of Conscience in Summer (DOCS) students have dedicated themselves to creating the immigration documentary. 17-year-old Alyssa Berrios hopes to use the skills she's gaining to eventually become a journalist. "You get to explore the different types of roles in the documentary. You can be a script writer, you can be the narrator, you could be the interviewer or be a camera person," Berrios shared.

Gabe Hoekman, a tenth grader from Montgomery Blair added, "Camera work, audio work, editing; which I want to do editing because editing is my favorite thing to do." Hailegeorggies immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia with her family at the age of seven. For her, the project is personal. "We have a voice on immigrants and illegal immigrants and we want to educate the people and also try to make a difference," she said.

Students are paid a small stipend for participating in the summer program. As for the documentary, once completed, it will be shown at film festivals across the country.

This story has been updated Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017

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