NEW YORK, March 31, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Not content simply winning an Emmy nomination for the critically-acclaimed documentary they produced about their own lives, a group of homeless youth are kicking off a "Homeless not Hopeless" campaign with the Reciprocity Foundation (www.reciprocityfoundation.org) to inspire Americans to become advocates for solutions to youth homelessness.
"Invisible: the Diaries of New York's Homeless Youth" was created and inspired by youth enrolled in the Reciprocity Foundation's program to help homeless youth break the cycle of poverty, start a career and become leaders and advocates in America. The half hour "mini-doc" originally aired on New York's PIX 11 to an audience of roughly 700,000 in late 2009 before garnering an Emmy nomination from the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
True to their desire to be change-makers, the youth are organizing screenings across America—and plan to reach one million Americans with the message that homeless persons are not hopeless—by demonstrating how thousands of homeless youth have overcome enormous obstacles to become leaders in America. The youth filmmakers will be working with school and community groups to organize local screenings and discussion forums to raise awareness of the solutions to poverty and isolation amongst America's youth.
Since it's inception in 2005, the Reciprocity Foundation has helped homeless youth move from homeless shelters into leadership roles in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Tyra Banks partnered with the Reciprocity Foundation to create an episode of America's Next Top Model to educate teens about youth homelessness. The success of the show led to Reciprocity's student Isis becoming the first—and most talked about—transgender contestant on America's Next Top Model. Isis' appearance highlighted how thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth are forced out onto the street because their families reject their sexual identity.
Youth from the Reciprocity Foundation have also become Green entrepreneurs, written and produced songs about homelessness, depicted homelessness in photo shoots, produced music videos and commercials, led HIV awareness campaigns and designed sustainable clothing and accessories. All of their accomplishments reinforce the intrinsic creativity and potential of homeless youth.
"Americans think about homelessness as a dead-end. But our students become college graduates, start careers and change the world," said Reciprocity Foundation co-founder, Adam Bucko. "Because homeless youth understand poverty and isolation, they are naturally compassionate leaders who understand what it takes to achieve social and cultural change."
From shooting video to writing copy to overseeing edit sessions, the formerly homeless co-producers including Lyssette Horne, Selassie Samuel, Eleet Lucheonnie, Aaron McBride, Dorian Paat, Bobby Beavers and Jennifer Carter, took the experience of learning to produce media into the world. Launching the "Homeless Not Hopeless" campaign is a way for them to translate their experience from media-makers to media-activists.
WNBC news reporter Chris Glorioso, an Emmy award-winning journalist himself, served as a mentor and co-producer on the project. "It doesn't surprise me that this group of formerly homeless youth want to harness their newfound media skills to create social change," said Glorioso. "Watching a film is only half of the solution. Now they have to inspire Americans to help solve the problem."
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."
The experience of making this film helped all homeless youth co-producers move out of the homeless shelter and into independent housing. Lyssette Horne is now a production coordinator for a program aired by a PBS affiliate. Selassie Samuel is enrolled in college and creating his own media production company. Dorian Paat recently travelled to Africa to speak at the U.N. about the AIDS epidemic, work with African children in the slums and making media appearances aimed at AIDS education. Aaron McBride graduated from college with a degree in audio engineering and runs a thriving, media production house. Eleet Lucheonnie started a creative project that merged her interest in arts and advocacy—it uses new media to change stereotypes of transgender youth. And all six co-producers are no longer homeless. Not only are they living independent of the shelters, they actively mentor other homeless youth.
To receive a copy of the DVD of Invisible or to organize a film screening in your community, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT US: Reciprocity Foundation (www.reciprocityfoundation.org), is 501c3 nonprofit organization co-founded by Adam Bucko and Taz Tagore to help homeless young adults achieve financial stability and sustainable careers. The organization is built on the premise that an integrated approach—combining business skills, media training, yoga, meditation, mentorship, supportive services and whole-person counseling—enables youth to break the cycle of poverty. Since it's inception, the Reciprocity Foundation has helped hundreds of homeless youth become successful entrepreneurs, community leaders, educators and media activists.
SOURCE Reciprocity Foundation