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Simply going to the movies isn’t enough for Andrea DeGette's students.  They make movies, as well.

DeGette teaches videography at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough. Her students learn it all: Documentaries that can be educational, entertaining and moving – on issues and topics ranging from school lunches to startup bluegrass bands to child abuse.  Narrative (fiction) films bring to life compelling stories of love, loss, mystery and intrigue. 

The students are getting the best seats in the house in learning how to produce these types of films, along with commercials, public service announcements and even music videos.  While they’re having fun, DeGette says that her students also are preparing themselves for success in college and in their careers, whether or not they wind up working in the video industry. There might be budding Hitchcocks or Spielbergs in the program, but the skills they acquire readily apply to a multitude of careers.

“My particular program is very useful in career and college readiness because the nature of video production requires a basic understanding of how to get along in the workforce,” she said. “Video production is a microcosm of greater systems because each individual strength and personality has a place.  Whether it’s writing, visual or technical knowledge – all of those elements come together in creating videos.”

DeGette's curriculum comprises the basic elements of video production.  These include recording, editing, media literacy, formats, screenwriting and storyboarding. But it also stresses overall professionalism, which involves working together, working with clients and meeting deadlines – all while maintaining a high bar for creativity.

The New York University graduate began developing the videography program a quarter century ago. At first it was simply to teach the technical aspects of film production, but it later morphed into the filling of a critical need to increase media literacy among high school students.

Media literacy is essential for all young people to have as they prepare for life after high school and college, said DeGette. They study and analyze commercials and PSAs to look at the five areas in media literacy: who owns the message, who is sending the message, how it’s being received, how it’s produced and how it’s being distributed.

“Some of that learning stems from traditional literacy curriculum but we need to employ new methods,” she said.  “This helps the students become producers instead of simply consumers.  Instead of being passive users they become active users in the sense of understanding the barrage of media messages that are part of their moment-to-moment existence.”

DeGette has the students critique each others' work and invites professionals in the field to review the students' work as well.  These reviews culminate in an annual awards show a la the Academy Awards.

The Cedar Ridge videography program is part of a College and Career Promise partnership with Alamance Community College. You can check out the students' work at