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Students create PSA, short documentary highlighting Salvation Army's mission

June 5, 2015

Since the Community College of Rhode Island began offering its New Media Communication Certificate program in 2013, several students looking to make a career out of their passion for film have reaped the benefits. Now, thanks to those students, the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in Providence has been able to benefit, too.

The partnership kicked off last fall, when Maj. Gretchen Schuse approached Norman Grant, a videographer in the college’s Department of Marketing and Communications who is also an instructor of new media courses. Schuse wanted to know if the college’s New Media Group, or NMG, could design a 30-second spot to promote the Salvation Army’s mission.

Grant thought the opportunity would be perfect for the club designed to give students with an interest in digital media a chance to cultivate their skills. But he also saw a chance for his Field Production class to write, produce and edit a longer documentary piece (see video above.) Schuse was more than happy to oblige.

“These projects are important to the Salvation Army because we do not have a local media budget. Because we’ve never been able to advertise, many in the community are unaware of the [Adult Rehabilitation Center]. I’m hoping the commercial and the documentary will help reach people who do not know about our program, and don’t know where to find real help. People who don’t know we’re here for them,” said Schuse.

Students filming at Salvation Army.Grant and two teams of students – Tijani Alabi, Alexandre Gomes, Stephen Pennine and Taylor Williams of the Field Production class; and Rhys Santa Maria, Michael Christian, Zach Falcone, Caitlin Forcier and Gomes of the NMG – worked with Schuse to schedule and complete several shoots on location. For students, the process of seeing each project through from start to finish included scripting interview questions, shooting the interviews and b-roll as well as editing and post-production duties.

“This kind of knowledge isn’t something that’s so easily obtainable through reading books and taking classes. You need something to go out and do,” said Pennine of Smithfield, who had freelanced in media production prior to enrolling in the certificate program. 

Gomes, a Barrington student who is also the treasurer of the NMG, concurred, saying that the hands-on experience was the first assignment he’d encountered that encompassed all of the elements of production in one place. “It was great to see a more elaborate project and see how the planning all comes together. It was a lot of fun,” said Gomes, adding that he’d only worked on creative storytelling pieces before – never a documentary. “You have to bring out the real story as it’s really happened to someone; you’re taking their life story. There’s an art to the interview process,” he said.

Student filming at Salvation Army.Like Pennine, Gomes has always had an interest in media and film, starting out filming his own dancing and editing it together. “I realized there was a lot more to video than just watching,” he said. “I found my focus at CCRI through the New Media Communication Certificate program.”

Grant said that after two years of offering the program, the word has gotten out to the student body, with many courses filling up quickly. Gomes said it was likely the real-life experiences like the Salvation Army project that made the courses so meaningful for him and other students. “If you read about these things and actually go out and do them, you connect more with the material, and it stays with you,” he said.

But the students weren’t alone in taking something away from their subject. Asked about her experience working with the CCRI students, Schuse said she was “smiling just thinking about them. Their talent and understanding of the filming process was very impressive, and I’m overwhelmed by their commitment. To know they are willing to give their time and focus to benefit hurting people in our community really makes me proud of them. They are quality human beings, and I’m encouraged by their presence in the world.”

For Pennine, the subject – men and women who were struggling to overcome significant obstacles ranging from addiction to chronic homelessness – made all the difference in the worth of the project. He said he has a good deal of professional experience in the commercial world, helping companies sell their products for a profit. This was different, and that touched him, he said.

“The stories we tell of these people let other people see that if they need help, they can go look for it. The Salvation Army can help,” added Gomes.

Grant said that Schuse has plans to approach media networks to air the 30-second spot as a PSA, and hopes to feature the PSA and the documentary online. “We might be able to do a screening at the program facility, too,” he said.

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Last Updated: 1/26/17