Youth Lens 360 creates opportunities for young creatives interested in video production and empowers them to dismantle mainstream media narratives. Dario Otero, Founder of Youth Lens 360, says he began the company after mentoring students interested in video production at High School for Recording Arts, which led to real world opportunities for them.
“Working in HSRA, I brought my camera and worked with students,” Otero explained. “And just kind of letting them see the video production camera and showing them editing... It turned into doing stuff like smaller mom and pop shops, and eventually it turned into those campaigns we did with State Farm, United Way, people like that. What I realized though was the money was flowing into the institution and grants, but it couldn't really go back into the pockets of the people that were doing the work just because of the nature of education–paying kids every day when it comes to school. So I looked at what we were doing and I realized, like, we could actually kill the game. And we took it outside of the school.”
Otero says the goal of Youth Lens 360 is to tell empowering stories that counter the narratives put out by mainstream media about people who look like them.
“I'm really excited because we got opportunities to do some really cool projects,” said Otero. “One of them is called the Legal Revolution. What it is, is currently incarcerated people getting their degree to be lawyers in prison, so when they get out they can help and try other people's cases, but also have that ability to go live a good life and be a lawyer. So we're telling the story about how that work is happening.”
Otero says working on the project underscored for him how storytelling shapes the way in which we view the world.
“We realized right away we need to find people that have our experiences, our lens on the story,” said Otero. “We've always been brilliant, but the systemic issues constantly face us. The real long term story is saying how brilliant people are, and how the environment puts you into these situations. It really changed the narrative of how people currently look at incarcerated people and their abilities.”
You can find out more about Youth Lens 360 at its website.