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In a new class at New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute (CMI), students are learning how to create a web series, and they are producing episodes “that have some real-world impact,” said CMI instructor and filmmaker Rajeev Nirmalakhandan, who came up with the idea for the class and has been teaching it for the past three semesters.
Last spring, a dozen students worked on three different web series, each focused on a Las Cruces nonprofit: the Las Cruces Public Schools Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Las Cruces and Cancer Warriors. Each student team completed four short episodes about its nonprofit, which will be available for public viewing on You Tube.
NMSU senior Damien Trejo said LCPD Foundation Executive Director Amy McCarty “contributed so much” to that web series, “not only helping the foundation but us students as well.”
“What moved me most was the investment in student education,” said Trejo, who fell in love with video production while attending a vocational high school in El Paso and was taking the web series class for the second time because “it was my favorite class within four years of college,” he said.
“I was excited to have our foundation considered as a featured partner,” McCarty said. “I was most impressed with the professionalism of the students with whom I worked. Through my conversations with them I realized that many people probably don’t know that while we support the efforts of LCPS teachers and offer scholarships to LCPS students we are a completely separate entity. I hope to embed some of their work into our website and social media posts --- although I might need their tech skills to do so,” McCarty said.
Marci Dickerson, who owns the Game and Game II and Dickerson Catering in Las Cruces and created Cancer Warriors earlier this year, said she was honored to be the subject of a CMI web series, calling it “a very great way for these kids to get experience while highlighting what makes our community amazing and unique,” she said.
“You see, Marci was diagnosed with breast cancer,” student filmmaker David Alcala Garcia said at the beginning of the Cancer Warriors series, “and her being Marci, being the charitable and amazing soul that she is, decided to make an organization dedicated to those who are affected by cancer.”
Garcia attended the Cancer Warriors lunch in April that raised more than $220,000. He was also on hand as Dickerson received the Las Cruces International Film Festival’s 2023 hometown hero award.
“It’s fun to be a part of an organization that gives back to kids,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters regional board chair Cory Leiferman in a web episode about that nonprofit. “The meaning of Big Brothers Big Sisters is creating that one-on-one mentorship, creating that personal connection (between) a mentor (and adult) and a kid.”
Pioneer Banks of Las Cruces President Kiel Hoffman decided to become a big brother more than three years ago to give back to the community and because he “thought it would be cool to have a little brother since my kids are now grown and in college,” Hoffman said. You can make a difference in somebody’s life.”
The program has given Hoffman’s little brother “someone to spend time with when my mom is at work,” the boy said. “I really don’t see my dad often; he lives in Albuquerque. Now that I’ve been with Kiel for a while, it’s really fun.”
Through all three of the web series his students created, CMI and the nonprofits they worked with “come together to meaningfully impact the community,” Raj said.
They also learn “the creative, logistical challenges of planning, shooting, editing a web series,” Raj said, including how to be “very adaptive and thorough” as they shoot without a script and “have to fit into the world of their subject.” They are learning communication skills with the community, he said, and experiencing firsthand “the power of filmmaking.”