Mental Health

Sparking a future for today’s youth at Lights, Camera, Discover

Television, film, digital media and life lessons at Phoenix nonprofit Lights, Camera, Discover.

PHOENIX, Ariz. (STN) – Student success is strongly tied to their support system. After-school activities and programs are often the number one thing many students point to as the key to their academic success. However, student success starts with mentor programs that meet the students where they are in their lives. They build their self-confidence and drive them toward choosing their chosen career path.

“We’re not just investing in giving the kids something to do while their parents are at work. We’re teaching them how to be better collaborators, better community members,” says Kema Charles. Charles is the executive director and founder of Lights, Camera, Discover (LCD) a nonprofit she created 13 years ago. LCD teaches kids the fundamentals of television and film production and other digital art forms and digital media. 

The program is about more than teaching students lighting, photography, and editing. Charles says it is about investing in the kids so they can tap into their potential and discover what they want to do with their future. 

Watch the Lights, Camera, Discover panel discussion here:

Charles talked about her nonprofit and the importance of mentoring today’s youth in the April episode of ‘It Happens at STN.’ Joining her in the discussion was Savannah Ellis a  Girl Scout from the Arizona Cactus-Pine chapter and Maci Logan a former Lights, Camera, Discover student, now working with Charles as an intern for the nonprofit.

Logan says she learned more about film and production than she ever could have at school. Plus, she was learning from someone who looked like her. 

“I knew Kema was the right person for me because she is a Black, female business owner. She is independent, like me, and she comes from a very family-oriented background, like me,” Logan said in the discussion.

For Logan, she didn’t want a program and a mentor that would baby her along the way. She wanted a place where she could learn and be allowed to make some mistakes, to learn how to navigate the world as a young Black woman.

“You don’t want a mentor that’s going to hold your hand the whole way, maybe some part of the way, but the rest of the way they have to let you sprout your wings and fly. That way you can really reach where you need to be.”

Charles has been the one-woman army behind LCD since she created the nonprofit 13 years ago. She had help from volunteers and interns like Logan, but she has done the bulk of the heavy lifting. Like many nonprofits, the biggest barrier to LCD’s success has been getting the funds needed to keep the program sustainable for future generations. In 2021, LCD received a $100k donation from Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker. It was a huge boost to the business. However, LCD needs more community investment to sustain its impact on the community.

“We are a business, and if we are going to keep building and expanding our reach we need to be comfortable and [financially] stable to be able to do that.” Charles had tremendous success as the one-woman army leading LCD but she likes to imagine what she could do if she had a team behind me.

To get involved with Lights, Camera, Discover visit their website.

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