Oscars, Move Over!

Kids in the Spotlight, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2009. The program trains youth in foster care programs and other underserved youth to create, write, cast and star in their own short films. This training culminates in an annual film festival competition: “Movies by Kids, for Kids.”

Why Kids in the Spotlight?
KITS was created to create a platform for foster care kids to tell their stories their way, and to be celebrated for the courage that it takes to tell their stories. It came from an encounter I had when I visited an all-girls group home.

  A group of KITS students standing on the stage at last year's film festival competition

A group of KITS students standing on the stage at last year's film festival competition

Can you talk more about that encounter?
My husband was teaching an acting workshop at the group home. After the workshop, we toured the facilities. In the girls rooms were twin-sized beds. Above the bed were pictures of their families. Beneath the beds were a few personal items. I thought, Wow, this is all of their personal space! I was moved to sympathy and compassion. Then I noticed a group of girls misbehaving. First, a moment of judgment came. Then, a quickening came and said, “Yes, they’re acting out, but they’re doing it because they want your attention.” I asked the administrator how to help. She said that they needed mentors.

How did you end up creating the “Movies by Kids, for Kids” Film Festival Competition?
After I attended a seminar at my church: “Finding God’s Purpose,” I asked God, “What am I supposed to do?” He reminded me of those girls at that foster care facility. I heard, “They needed attention. Give them their story. Let them write their stories, cast their stories, and star in them. Give them something nobody can ever take from them. And don’t stop there. Create an awards ceremony. This is going to be their Academy Awards.

 The poster from a Kids in the Spotlight film

The poster from a Kids in the Spotlight film

Why is it important for them to tell their stories?
When you are removed from your family structure, when you think about the magnitude of being in an institution where people are dictating your every move, and you are away from your family…you need some type of outlet. The arts are medication.

What changes do you see in the students—from the beginning of the ten-week process—to the end?
They come to us, like cocoons in a shell. They are a little resistant. They have trust issues, understandably. We see them coming out of their shells. And by the end, they are  beautiful butterflies.

Many kids who have performed in KITS and have been encouraged by our professional artists, have gone on to college and are now majoring in the performing arts.

What is your ultimate goal for the youth whom you work with?
To make sure that they are not victims of their circumstances. We say this affirmation at the end of each class: “I can do great things because I was created to do great things.”

 Founder Tige Charity with KITS participants and actor Derek Luke

Founder Tige Charity with KITS participants and actor Derek Luke

 

About the Author: Chanté Griffin is a writer, TV personality, and proud code-switcher.  Connect with her via her blog: yougochante.com/blog and via Twitter: @yougochante