From the Streets... to the Red Carpet


Mar 03, 2011, 18:14 ET from Reciprocity Foundation

NEW YORK, March 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- They spent their teenage years living on the streets of New York City.  Today, a group of formerly homeless adolescents is one step away from winning an Emmy for the gritty, critically-acclaimed documentary they produced about their own lives.

"Invisible: the Diaries of New York's Homeless Youth" was created by - and inspired by - teens and young adults in The Reciprocity Foundation's program for homeless youth.  The half hour "mini-doc" originally aired on New York's PIX 11 to an audience of roughly 700,000 in late 2009 and now it has been nominated for an Emmy Award by the New York Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The program offers an intimate, sometimes unsettling look at the enormous economic and cultural challenges homeless teenagers face in their search to find roofs over their heads - and peace in their hearts.

Each year, up to 2.8 million young people experience homelessness.  Reciprocity Foundation co-founder, Adam Bucko said, "This is a huge victory for homeless youth.  We have spent the past 7 years convincing corporations, governments and the public that homeless youth aren't hopeless -they have enormous talent, creativity and potential."

From shooting video to writing copy to overseeing edit sessions, the formerly homeless co-producers of "Invisible" mastered the spectrum of television production skills.  WNBC news reporter Chris Glorioso, an Emmy award-winning journalist himself, served as a mentor and co-producer on the project.

"I have rarely seen a group of young adults so fearless and so focused," said Glorioso.  "These kids, who spent their formative years sleeping on sidewalks and on strangers' couches, conceptualized a piece of television that is both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.  That's not easy, even for a seasoned documentary maker."

The Reciprocity Foundation students undertook this project in order to highlight an often-ignored and somewhat taboo issue; the film documents personal experiences of youth homelessness as only formerly homeless teens can explain.  

The show was co-written, co-produced, and partially shot by 7 of Reciprocity's formerly homeless teens:  Lyssette Horne, Selassie Samuel, Eleet Lucheonnie, Aaron McBride, Dorian Paat, Bobby Beavers and Jennifer Carter.

Told mostly from a first person perspective, the film explores and demystifies the causes of youth homelessness: being orphaned, fleeing chronic physical and sexual abuse, or simply trying to escape overwhelming economic dilemmas.  The homeless youth featured talk openly about the circumstances that made them homeless and the Reciprocity Foundation's unique formula for lifting kids out of crisis and into successful careers.

Reciprocity Foundation's co-founder Taz Tagore said, "Homeless youth can break the cycle of poverty, but only if you enable them to have a career goal that excites them and leverages their talents. In a very real way, working on this documentary has done just that for our students. They were homeless just months ago, but now they can honestly say they've produced a television show in the nation's top media market."

Documentary co-producer Lyssette Horne spent 2 years homeless and is now making a career in television production.  "When I teamed up with Chris, PIX and the Reciprocity Foundation, I started to realize my dream career was in media activism through documentary making.  After helping write and produce "Invisible," I know that I can make a difference with the stories and experiences I portray."

Today, these youth are college graduates, filmmakers, activists and community leaders.  Not only that, they are mentors to the younger kids in our program--demonstrating how success opened their hearts to the plight of other homeless kids.

ABOUT US: The Reciprocity Foundation was co-founded by Adam Bucko and Taz Tagore to implement sustainable solutions to homelessness.  The 501c3 nonprofit has won numerous awards for it's innovative approaches to helping homeless youth break the cycle of poverty.  Using an integrated approach--that combines job training, yoga, meditation, media training and whole-person counseling--the Reciprocity Foundation has helped hundreds of homeless youth reach their full potential.

SOURCE Reciprocity Foundation