I come from a high school that specializes in helping students to become self-reliant and learn skills through the student’s interests. This is often done by having students search for internships or be an apprentice. When I was a freshman in October of 2018 I had a vague interest in game development and was short on opportunities.
One day my advisor Steve announced a new opportunity being offered to Big Picture Students. He told us it was an arts program that taught audio, story writing, and virtual reality development. That last one felt like a wild card. I didn’t know much about virtual reality beyond a few brief appearances in online videos or tucked away in some corner of an arcade. No matter where I saw it, it always seemed out of reach like watching an owl perched on a tree. The fact that it was offered to youth out of all people in this high school made it feel like a one-time calling. But because of my lack of experience, I hesitated to raise my hand when Steve was handing out the tour sign-up sheets. I’m not sure what took me so long to finally raise my hand, but it would change my life forever.
Arts Corps is an arts education organization whose mission is to break educational boundaries and allow youth creative minds to use their art to influence the world through various programs. I joined the first LIT program in January of 2019. LIT specialized in teaching students how to use audio software, film equipment, and virtual reality tools to make their art with the help of specialized teaching artists. It was the first year of the program so some things fell a little off track sometimes, but overall it felt like an artist’s journey. It felt like the program was growing alongside you making it; it felt less like a training course and more like it was your program.
Each session, we’d have morning check-ins, and even though we didn’t always have much to say it helped establish great community vibes. I loved when we went into the larger parts of Seattle on our trips to art studios. Even though meeting people who work in the careers you see yourself in the future is always a motivating feeling, traversing the streets and buses made it feel like the kind of stories you’d tell your grandkids when talking about your career. I don’t get to be on foot in the bigger parts of Seattle that often so that’s what probably amplified the experience for me.
The first major VR project I worked on when joining LIT was a simple exploration experience where you could move across dream-like worlds, which is my way of saying nothing made sense or followed a theme. It was mostly me trying to get my footing with the technology but it helped that VR is totally badass.
The greatest memory I have of the program was the final presentation of my first year. I wasn’t too confident in my weird VR project. It was also a way later time to present than I was used to so I was ready to go to sleep. To make matters worse we had a lot of trouble getting our showcase equipment set up like finding out who’s headset even belonged to someone. We cycled through students each presenting what we’ve been working on for the past six months.
When my turn came I felt a strange calmness and pride flow in. Suddenly my project didn’t seem like a failure and I started to see with the smiles of the attendees that it was a success. Whereas once, I was some lonely kid in a computer lab, now was able to work on something most people don’t even know exists. It helped that the presentation room was literally a theater, the whole thing felt like a triumphant cinematic moment on film with lights shining on us.
I’m one of those people that beats themselves up a lot, but I always seek to improve myself. This was the first time in my life I felt like I’d made it. It started off a long chain of future successes and I realized that I could be an artist if I tried. Since then I’ve only felt my progress of self-discovery moving further.
Arts Corps has helped me find what being an artist can mean and the joy it can bring to people. They helped me get my first taste of what it’d be like to pursue my passions professionally. And it’s given me hope that more and more youth have access to their resources so the world doesn’t miss out on the creations of a young person’s mind before their creativity is limited through adulthood struggles.
I feel the least I can do is help out Arts Corps the best I can as a classroom assistant so that when I eventually become ready to join the games industry I will have helped make the Arts Corps better for youth than when I first joined LIT. So now I’m helping the LIT team with an upcoming week-long intensive. From April 12th – 16th we’ll be helping students from grades 10-12 learn about using immersive technology for storytelling and game development. Applications are due March 19, 2021. Apply here.
— FABIAN HERNANDEZ-ANGEL, Classroom Assistant LIT 2021