A group of fifth grade students from P.S. 193Q in Whitestone were recognized for their storytelling and promoting positive self-image in an Instagram reel they created and starred in as part of the New York Edge after-school program. Their reel debuted at New York Edge’s #GetReel Film Festival in February at the Museum of the Moving Image.
A lot of acclaim was given to the reel’s director, Laila, for her storytelling skills. Her reel ended up receiving the award for Best Positive Self-Image for its uplifting effect, emotional impact on viewers and being most representative of the theme of positive self-image. Laila’s reel consisted of several of her peers sharing their insecurities and encouraging each other to be confident and proud of themselves.
“I kind of wanted my film to be about how you’re not the only one that doesn’t like something about yourself,” Laila said. “In my film, there’s this girl that doesn’t like a part of herself, but she’s not alone. I want people to feel like they aren’t alone and based [the reel] off that idea. It feels exciting and important because there were a lot of people that saw it and can learn from it.”
New York Edge’s programs helped prepare Laila and her peers in making this reel. The programs taught them about several filmmaking elements, including storyboards, camera shots, editing and costumes. After becoming inspired to make her reel about art and self-image, Laila applied many of the storytelling skills taught to her by New York Edge in creating her work.
According to New York Edge CEO Rachael Gazdick, she was very impressed with Laila’s reel. Gazdick felt the storytelling in it reflected the selfless and caring nature of Laila. She took a lot of joy in seeing the success of Laila and her peers.
“At New York Edge, we love to see our students become the next filmmakers, podcasters and scientists,” Gazdick said. “I think Laila has demonstrated not only her passion for creating a better world by recognizing what it takes to be kind, but also her filmmaking skills. I think when students learn these skills at a very young age, it builds passion within them to continue to think about what the future could hold within them. I hope to see [Laila] on the big screen someday.”
New York Edge has been around for about 30 years, serving 30,000 students in each borough of New York City. Additionally, the organization launched a program on Long Island in 2023. New York Edge’s mission is to assist in bridging the opportunity gap among students in underinvested communities by providing programs designed to improve academic performance, health and wellness, self-confidence and leadership skills for success in life.
The presence of New York Edge can be found in 116 school buildings. Those taking part in the program range from kindergarten to college. Each programming is designed for the specific age groups.
In addition to P.S. 193Q, other New York Edge students were recognized for their storytelling at the film festival. These students were from schools like M.S. 382K, J.H.S 98X, I.S. 125Q, P.S. 112Q, P.S. 66K, M.S. 57K and P.S. 308K.
Laila was also grateful towards those who helped make her vision come to life. In addition to thanking her fellow students in the after-school program for volunteering to be a part of the film, Laila thanked her art teacher at P.S. 193Q for helping her in creating it.
“We have to be able to provide our kids with the tools and resources they need to succeed and that’s what we try to do at New York Edge,” Gazdick said. “But the talent really comes from the student and from our instructors that we hire at each of our sites. I think that mentorship is really important, to have adults in the kids’ lives that teach them what they know.”
Gazdick also pointed out that this generation of kids may have an advantage when it comes to using technology for storytelling due to having more of a familiarity growing up with it compared to previous generations.