Students Talk Empowerment and Action at M.E.S.S. on November 8

On Sat Nov 8, Hear Me and CREATE Lab hosted the Media Empowerment Student Summit at Carnegie Mellon University to connect youth-serving organizations and youth using media for empowerment and education.

Over 100 people attended the event, including artists, media artists, youth organizers, student councils, youth-adult allies, teachers, parents and 70 students from Pittsburgh Public School District, McKeesport, Quaker Valley, Propel Andrew Street, North Hills, and Steel Valley, among other districts. 

Tad Wissel from Saturday Light Brigade broadcasted live from MESS on SLB’s on-air broadcast during breakfast and registration. 

The day kicked off with an icebreaker from Learning Instigator Michelle King @LrningInstigatr, who asked participants to use their “superpowers” to connect with each other, both in-person and on social media. Check out

(pictured above: one group spells "YOUTH" for a superpowers challenge)

Participants then broke off into individual sessions.

Students packed the room for the Saturday Light Brigade’s Audio Production workshop, which included radio broadcasting and podcasting. (Listen to their work here!) Afterward, Pittsburgh Filmmakers hosted a skill-based workshop on Animation.

As the day continued, participants learned about youth leaders in civil and educational movements and listened to stories from peer student leaders, like TeenBloc youth or first-time-filmmaker Alexis Werner. In a series of 10-minute talks hosted by Teen Change-Makers, students learned how to organize themselves to challenge school board policies, promote innovative idea-sharing and collaborate with the mayor of Pittsburgh.

During the resource fair at lunch, youth connected with resources providers from:

Attendees also contributed self-portraits to Color Me Pittsburgh’s Race Map (@INCLUDEpgh).  

Afternoon sessions gave students the opportunity to have safe, in-depth conversations about youth issues like the transition to college, ISM's and hidden prejudices, and bullying. Professional filmmakers wrapped up the day with a two-hour panel discussion on using documentary filmmaking for a cause, featuring Julie Sokolow, Kirsi Jansa, and Chris Ivey. 

(pictured above: The Urban League’s workshop,“Combatting the ISM's” posed critical questions about hidden prejudices and challenged youth to create their own media plan)

(pictured above: 1Hood Media performs at the end of MESS)

The Summit served to empower youth in SWPA to have a voice on big issues, and to build friendships across geographical and institutional borders. Ultimately, building media skills is crucial to teens who see media as a strategy that they can use to create community and school change.

“I have a lot of ideas now (on) how I am going to start making changes in my school,” said Nadirah and Nayelle from McKeesport High School.  “I was motivated to make a change to my community. I now know that through media and effective strategies, I can have my voice heard."

Watch some highlights from the MESS here!