Children’s Defense Fund Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship

>>Children’s Defense Fund Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship
Children’s Defense Fund Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship2021-01-26T16:11:38-05:00

Application Description


The Children’s Defense Fund is looking for young people who want to use their voice to make change in their communities and bring their lived experience to life through storytelling and filmmaking.

The Children’s Defense Fund Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship will elevate the voices and stories of young people who have faced economic struggles that have impacted their lives. We want to hear from young people who have experienced the real-life impacts of economic inequality, including but not limited to:  food insecurity or hunger; housing insecurity, eviction, or homelessness; lack of health care; neighborhood violence; and/or family instability or separation. Five fellows will be selected from the pool of applicants to share their story through short films they will produce as part of the fellowship.

Through the production of a short film, fellows will have the opportunity to share their stories in their own voice with audiences across the country. In sharing their stories, fellows will help illustrate the realities of how economic inequality impacts young people and their communities. The Children’s Defense Fund will share these stories with a broad audience to spur civic action to advance policy changes to lift up young people, families, and communities facing economic challenges.

While the creation of a short film is the key outcome of this project, the Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship will also seek to engage and train fellows around a variety of storytelling methods. In addition to video production, the program will build fellows’ capacity in other effective storytelling techniques, including persuasive writing, digital advocacy, and spoken testimony.

Fellows will receive a $1,500 stipend as well as a full suite of video recording and editing equipment and technology valued at up to $2,500, which will belong permanently to fellows after the program ends. The Children’s Defense Fund will also provide fellows with training in storytelling, filmmaking, and more.

Program Overview and Expectations

As a fellow, you will be provided with:

  • A monetary stipend of $1,500;
  • All necessary video and filming equipment;
  • Training and support by storytelling professionals;
  • Access to CDF’s wider network and resources; and
  • The opportunity to effect change in your community by telling your story.

The fellowship program will begin in February 2021 and culminate in the finalization of the short films in August 2021, however fellows should expect to maintain engagement with the program through the end of 2021. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the program will take place virtually. We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic may pose challenges to this project and are committed to working with our fellows to make sure they can film their stories faithfully in a way that is safe for them, their families, and their communities.

Should you be selected for the fellowship, you will be expected to:

  • Film, edit, and produce a short film (no more than 10 minutes) that shares your lived experience;
  • Attend cohort meetings and virtual workshops and trainings for storytelling and video creation each month;
  • Dedicate 1-5 hours weekly to the project;
  • Be comfortable sharing your story, name, voice, and likeness in your video and publicly.

Requirements for Applicants

  • Must be between the ages of 16 and 24.
  • Must be willing to share personal testimony about experiences related to economic challenges to help drive change.
  • Must have reliable access to wifi and the ability to attend virtual meetings (e.g. Zoom) via smart phone or computer.

Preferred Qualifications

  • Demonstrated experience or interest in community activism.
  • Demonstrated experience or interest in storytelling and/or filmmaking.

Application Information

In addition to the general Application, you will be required to answer the following short answer (200 words or less each) prompts:

Section 1: Your Story

  • 1. How have economic struggles impacted you, your family, and your community?
  • 2. What changes would you like to see in your community to help more people achieve economic stability and success?

Section 2: Your Short Film

As a Youth Voices Storytelling Fellow, you will receive support throughout the storytelling process – from developing your story, to determining how you want to tell it and actually telling it. However, the questions in the following section are a starting point. We would like to learn about the unique perspective you could bring to this project and your initial ideas about what parts of your story you would like to share, who you will involve, and how you would like to share it. 

  • 3. What specific life experiences do you plan to include in your short film? What will be the focus of your story?
  • 4. How do you envision translating your story to film? 
    • Please feel free to be creative here! Think about short films or videos you might have seen on Youtube, for example. How many people were there in the video? Was the story told in first person? Were the people playing fictional characters? Did the video include interviews with other people? What kinds of images or scenes were featured? Here are some examples of youth-made short films for reference:
  • 5. Do you plan to include others (family members, friends, community members) in your film? Who are they and how might they be involved?
    • We understand that COVID-19 puts limitations on the involvement of other people in your film. We’re asking that you imagine what involvement could look like, if it is part of your vision. We will work diligently to support you in carrying out your vision, ensuring that your safety and the safety of those around you is never compromised.
  • 6. Why are you interested in and/or what excites you about the possibilities of visual storytelling and telling your story through film?
  • 7. What change do you hope to inspire by telling your story? What impact do you hope your story makes?

You will also be required to provide:

  • One letter of recommendation from a teacher, mentor, employer, counselor, or other non-family adult who know the applicant well.

Please click the button below to apply to the Youth Voices Storytelling Fellowship.

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Please email us if you have questions about the application.