They didn’t always agree, and sometimes they fought like siblings. But in the end, a group of 47 Rosemount Middle School students was able to capture Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream well enough to win recognition from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
The students were members of an after-school club formed specifically to enter a video contest put on by the department of human rights to honor the 50th anniversary of King’s I Have a Dream speech. Over the course of nearly two months this fall they debated ideas, wrote scripts, then filmed and edited a two-minute video that demonstrated how students can embrace diversity in the lunchroom.
Their video won first place in the middle school division of the department of human rights’ competition, and on Dec. 6 commissioner Kevin Lindsey came to the school to present the students with an award certificate.
RMS communication teacher Alissa Standon created the film club at the suggestion of principal Mary Thompson, but she tried to stay out of the creative process. She taught students how to write a script, how to create a storyboard and how to use the necessary editing software. Then she broke the students into committees — one for writers, one for actors, one for directors and one for editors — and let them go to work.
“They were very motivated, very consistent,” Standon said. “I was surprised by how quickly they became their own community. That was what was really awesome, because we have sixth, seventh and eighth graders.”
The video students came up with features a crowded lunchroom where students sit separated into peer groups. At one table, students gossip about a classmate who got into trouble. At another, honors students complain that they’re covering advanced calculus in math class. “I learned that years ago,” one student complains.
Then, a lone student gets up and switches to a different table to sit with a different group of students. Others follow, breaking down the barriers between the groups.
The message, said editing team member Clarice Shanks, is that it only takes one person to make a difference in the world.
The students said the real-life RMS lunchroom is a lot like the one they created for their video.
“Everybody sits with their friends,” said Emily Nord, who played that first student to switch tables.
Students hope to see some changes now that their video is done. The changes might have already started within the group. Nord and Shanks both said they made new friends while working on the project.