If corporations aren’t people, don’t tell that to Syd Stewart when it comes to AT&T.
In fact, Stewart said, “AT&T is a little different because they are just real people.”
The Better Youth program Stewart leads was working with AT&T before the telecommunications company funded her organization, which helps its foster and homeless youth in Los Angeles learn life skills through media-arts training.
“It was a human connection. It was organic,” Stewart told me. It must be something she is good at – she thought our meeting was because I was seeking film-editing work, but she transitioned in no time upon realizing that it was an interview. Her youth were in a summer media arts training and certification program at Warner Bros. Studios in conjunction with AT&T. Better Youth was selected because Stewart, who founded the organization, wanted to focus more on high school and college-age males, she said.
“We will be teaching micro-filming using cell phone technology,” Stewart said of the events of the day we met.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprise that Stewart was enabling the kids to learn cool things. Stewart used to run Usher’s own Los Angeles program to help underprivileged youth.
“Some of the kids with me today, they would hang out in Atlanta with Usher,” Stewart said. “The Hollywood side, lights-camera-action, that wasn’t his side when he was in his youth.”
That helped him, Stewart suggested.
“In Hollywood, the problem is kids get lost in the flash, in the glitter,” Stewart said. “Then they don’t make it.”
Some of Stewart’s programs are even only for boys, where male mentors talk with them about male-specific life issues. They also participate in a program started under the Obama administration called My Brother’s Keeper, which, under the Obama Foundation now, is intent on “building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.”
Stewart mentioned the My Brother’s Keeper had “vulnerable” young men in mind and was concerned about police brutality and targeting young males.
“They become an endangered species,” Stewart said. “So I think it’s important for the collective community to become concerned. … My Brother’s Keeper (is) saying ‘we are responsible for each other.’”
It has programs to “protect” those young men, Stewart added.
For all the talk about teaching girls to code and, as Stewart said, “blah, blah, blah,” boys from certain communities pick things up after being told just once or twice, Stewart has learned.
Through Better Youth’s media mentoring, staff guides discussions about how men are projected in the media and “trying to find their own identity when they create films themselves,” Stewart said.