Back when I was a student getting my degree in English at UC Irvine, I learned about The MY HERO Project. I was invited to take part in an internship at MY HERO, and I was immediately drawn to the mission and methods of the project. I felt that the internship, which involved researching and writing hero stories, was an excellent way to use my communication skills while learning about inspiring people in the world.
Some of my earliest stories dealt with people that I myself was interested in, such as Nawaal El Saadawi, an Egyptian writer, and Joseph Ki-Zerbo, a political activist in Burkina Faso. I also went on a trip to the Channel Islands to research and film students working with The JASON Project. I interviewed Robert Ballard, the founder of JASON, and was able to meet with kids who were learning about science and the environment.
|Dr. Robert Ballard with student, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Nawaal El Saadawi, and the JASON Project|
After being behind the camera for MY HERO, I realized I loved telling stories through film, so I decided to go to film school. I received my M.F.A. in Producing/Directing from UCLA, and made several short films that have played in festivals around the world.
Once I graduated, I felt that I now had the skills to teach filmmaking and contribute what I'd learned at school to others. I began working with MY HERO as a Media Arts Educator, and assisted Wendy Milette, Director of The MY HERO Film Festival.
In 2006, with the support of the California Arts Council, a MY HERO team went every other week to conduct filmmaking workshops at Taft High School. We taught camera basics and editing, and many of the student films won prizes in our Short Film Festival.
|Images from Taft High School student films|
With support from the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, we began production on The MY HERO Report, a compilation of hero stories inspired by stories told by student reporters. One story selected to be featured in this half-hour video was written by CJ Aldaz, a high school student who honored his hero, Milton E. Duran.
I went to Pueblo, Colorado, to meet CJ and his hero, his uncle and boxing coach, Milton "Eppie" Duran.
Together we created the short film
"CJ Aldaz and Eppie Duran" for The MY HERO Report.
In December 2006, with the support of the State Department, The MY HERO Project hosted a Global Exchange, which involved representatives from six different countries coming to Laguna Beach to learn about MY HERO and filmmaking. The six artists and educators learned about film production, the MY HERO website and the US EXPRESS video anthology. In Los Angeles we toured
USC and AFI film schools and joined professionals and students for the MY HERO Film Festival awards ceremony.
|Geeta with MY HERO staff and Global Exchange Partners|
Our student winner, Will Levitt, came from Boston to accept the award for his short film, "Wangaari Maathai". It was wonderful talking to him about his inspiration for the film and his hopes for the future. I also got to meet Charles Tsai, the filmmaker of
"Dan Eldon: The Art of Living," which won the Best of Fest award.
One of our Global Exchange partners, Cheikh Darou Seck, who had come from Senegal, had won the 2005 MY HERO Film Festival with his film "The Bird-Maker". It was an interesting experience to talk to the Global Exchange partners and hear what their thoughts about heroes and heroism were. Since we were all coming from different areas of the world, each person's idea of what makes someone a hero was often unique.
|Geeta with students at iEARN Egypt conference|
In July of 2007, I got the incredible opportunity to travel to Egypt for the 2007 iEARN Conference. I stayed in Mubarak City, just outside of Cairo, and was able to meet hundreds of educators and students from around the world. Debbie Senger, a teacher from Canada who has used MY HERO and iEARN Learning Circles in her classroom, also came to Egypt, and together we conducted workshops and presentations for the conference.
Meeting and working with the students in the MY HERO camera workshop was wonderful. Many of the students from Egypt already had experience working with cameras and editing, but others from around the world were beginners. The students interviewed each other about their heroes, and it was nice to see them starting to teach one another as well.
In 2007, I had another incredible opportunity: to visit China and film the heroes of the Special Olympics in Shanghai!
The MY HERO Project is all about making global connections. Heroes from all walks of life, from all around the world, can teach us something about the world we live in, and we can draw inspiration from their stories. I really connect with the storytelling aspect of MY HERO, and I feel lucky to be able to travel and meet people who are making a difference in the world.
I've grown as MY HERO has grown, and I've learned a lot through these hero stories. I'm still learning about the power of everyday heroes and the impact their positive choices can make on our planet and our people.