Living, Learning, and Leading by Sarah Smith
I grew up with role models everywhere; good ones to look up to and bad ones to learn from before I could make the same mistakes on my own. I was not used to paving a path for myself despite being the oldest of my two sisters and the oldest cousin on both sides of my family. I know how to get a job done, but I never knew how to start a project on my own. Like most other teenagers, it took me a while to find my place. By the time I reached high school, I had learned what kinds of friends are compatible for me, where I fit in, and how to adjust to new surroundings. But maybe I didn’t just want to fit in; maybe I wanted something more.
I saw high school as a fresh start after middle school. I made friends quickly and learned what I liked to do, what I didn’t like to do, and what I wanted to be more involved in so I could develop it as a passion. This passion was leadership. The term may seem broad to most, but that was as specific an answer as I could come up with by the end of my sophomore year. I loved helping kids, tutoring my sister in math, and taking charge of school projects. I desired more to organize something at my high school because I wanted to make a difference and extend a hand to those who need it. There was only one problem: I didn’t know where to start.
HOBY was my first defining moment as a leader. I was immediately interested when it was announced at my school and was thrilled when I discovered that I would be one of the lucky two applicants selected to spend a weekend at Villanova University for this exceptional leadership conference. During my first hour there, I found many friends within my assigned group and avidly participated in every activity. I was so appreciative for everything that we did and I found importance in every piece of advice given to me by the leaders who spoke. On the day that I left the program, I vowed to myself that I would not take any of my new-found knowledge for granted, but I would use it to better my school and community.
As soon as I got home, I continued brainstorming ideas for leadership at my school. Then came my most successful feat after HOBY. I noticed a gap in extracurricular options at my school: there were no activities available for students interested in business. Business and marketing were topics that sparked my interest after talking to my dad and some close family-friends about what it takes to work in that field. I have always enjoyed organizing, working with numbers, utilizing creativity, and helping others; so, this seemed like a perfect fit.
After doing some research and recruiting the help of my sister, a sophomore at the time, I became the founder and president of the “Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club” (EI club) in November 2016 for students interested in business. Our initial task was to schedule a meeting with our principal to get the club approved, then recruit a faculty moderator. Our first challenge came during this search. A few teachers declined in taking on the task due to schedule conflicts and lack of overall business knowledge. I was discouraged but persevered through this obstacle and ultimately found a teacher excited to take on the assignment. This experience especially taught me not to give up on an idea I feel passionate about, and that being a leader often involves innovation (finding an alternative route to accomplish a goal).
During the two weeks before the first meeting, my sister (the vice president) and I created a semester-long, three-point plan of execution. First, bring in a local leader to speak about an entrepreneurship-related topic. Second, involve club members in a project that incorporates marketing and finance by selling a product or service. Third, organize a field trip at the end of the semester to the NASDAQ stock exchange to learn about the stock market.
The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club had its first meeting in January of 2017 with an unprecedented turnout of 25 students. It was eventually decided upon that the club would be producing laptop and phone case stickers to raise money for our school’s annual dance marathon fundraiser called NAZ-A-THON for the CHOP miracle network. We worked non-stop on designs and price negotiations with a distributor while simultaneously planning and carrying out a successful outing to New York City where we visited the NASDAQ stock exchange and Cooley Law Firm to meet with our local leader Jeff Libson, a lawyer working with entrepreneurial companies. Our members are already excited for next year’s trip and for the stickers which will be sold by the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.
I consider myself a leader among my peers because I am now not afraid to take risks, start something new, or reach out to others with an idea to make our community better. Learning to lead at HOBY and then initiating and leading a business club have improved my confidence to try new things. Through my current experiences I have learned what kind of person I want to be and I continue to challenge myself by seeking out new opportunities to learn from. After applying to and attending two other leadership based camps this past summer (Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week and Economics for Leaders), I’ve learned that successful leaders don’t just dictate to others, they serve and teach. I’ve discovered that when you allow your team members to learn and grow with you, great things can be achieved.
Interview by Zoe D'Angelo
. 1.) What is directing a film like? - This is somewhat difficult to answer. For me, directing a film is like an algebraic equation with only variables and operations. It is up to the director to choose what each variable’s value should be, which in the end, determines the answer. The operations are like the script; they represent the story itself. This may sound a little complicated, but the job really isn’t. Or, it could be. It’s all about perspective- and that is the director’s job. I can’t speak for all directors. But for me, it’s a mixture of thrill and slight over thinking.
. 2.) When did you start to realize that filming was going to be a big part of your life? - I think I realized film was going to be a big part of my life after we successfully raised $10,000 on Kickstarter to film Beyond My Skin. At that point, film felt like a responsibility in a way. It was no longer JUST a fun hobby I loved to do. We had hundreds of different people’s money and trust, and a bit of pressure was on. I understood that it wasn’t exactly common for an indie film to pass the funding phase, so once we hit the jackpot, I took the whole thing as something way bigger than just making a film. It’s beyond my comprehension at the moment, but we’ll figure it out one day!
. 3.) How did you get started? - On April 8th, 2015 at 3:45pm, I had gotten a spark of inspiration while being on an NYU student’s short film set. Later that day, I got started by just doing it! I didn’t exactly have a camera, I had my mom’s phone though! Haha! I began recording my own YouTube videos, watching others’ YouTube videos, and just creating. Anything I didn’t know, I could figure out with a little research. We have a lot of free resources for anything we need to know, and the internet is a big one. Oh, and even just experimenting too.
. 4.) Did you attend film school or camps? If so what were they like? - I didn’t attend film school or any camps. For a while, I visited a youth media program at Philly Cam in Philadelphia once a week, but the majority of my knowledge on film came from YouTube and websites like nofilmschool.com. Shout out to DSLR Guide, an incredible filmmaker on YouTube!
. 5.) Do you have a place that you resort to get creative? - Well, I’m not that cool! I don’t exactly have a place or any methods I use to get ideas flowing. They are really spontaneous, but listening to music never fails to brew something!
. 6.) What piece of advice can you give to beginning directors? - I’m very much still a beginning director as well, but one thing I’ve understood, and it took me a while to digest, is that before anything, you need to know your story. At the very least, you need to understand the purpose of your film. I feel like once you know that, all of your last-minute decisions become a little bit easier to choose from- and well, everything else too. Oh, and this may sound a little cliché, but it’s so true and I feel like I have to add it. There’s only one rule: and that’s no rules!
. 7.) Is there anyone you’d like to work with one day? - I’d love to work with Ava DuVernay! Not only do I appreciate her work, but her personal beliefs as well. Listening to her speak is like a song. Haha! Directing-wise, she seems like she knows exactly what she wants, which is a quality I sometimes lack because any new idea sounds good to me. Then later on, it’s either a disaster or a masterpiece in the editing room. It’d be an honor to shadow her.
. 8.) Any shout outs? - SO MANY SHOUT OUTS! God has definitely blessed us with so many opportunities and has put amazing people in my life, so I’m definitely grateful for that! Firstly, I wouldn’t have even discovered my passion for film if it wasn’t for my parents. I love them so much and I’m so grateful to have such a support system. My entire family and few friends have just been so unbelievably supportive, and I did nothing to deserve it. All of the love on social media has been a blessing as well. I’m very appreciative for all of the shares, reposts, comments, and the simple likes! They all help get the film out there, and that’s all we could ever want. Without those simple things, we would not have reached our monetary goal to film the movie. I’m extremely grateful for everyone who donated, whether it was $5 to $1,000. Every single amount helped the film in some way. Lastly, but certainly not the least, the cast of Beyond My Skin. From the leads to the extras, everyone contributed their time and energy to creating this piece; and them giving it to a 14-year-old girl means everything to me. I thank them all the time, but I don’t think they get it. They’re truly amazing.
Submitted by our members as well as teens across the world.