SALEMBURG — At the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, cadets focused on cutting pieces of construction paper into shapes and designs with precision.
With colorful backdrops and technology, their stories were told through animated short films with the assistance of Royer Studios and the “Animate My Action Plan” (AMAP). It is the curriculum that offers National Guard Youth ChalleNGe cadets an opportunity to use art as a path towards STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) careers.
Liz Granite, vice president and producer of Royer Studios, and Facilitator S. Sargon, worked with the cadets on making the projects based on their experiences and their goals after graduating from the academy.
“We use the arts to introduce young people to STEAM and to get them interested in careers they may not have explored before,” she said. “So many of the challenge cadets are so talented, very creative and artistically driven.”
She added that STEAM gives cadets a healthy outlet of self-expression and opens their eyes to some possibilities about making a profit with technology and design. Based out of Topanga, Calif., the studio specializes in production services and education programs.
The cadets worked on teams to come up with ideas. Together, they wrote a script for the action plan and designed story boards for the art and animation for several scenes. The work also comes with titles, moral, credits and recorded voice-overs for the production.
With group members, Cadet Jadah Bradford joined others to produce “Chasing After Our Dreams.” The storyline focused on graduating from the academy. She said it was a fun project to work on.
“The element of surprise … I never thought I would do animation,” Bradford stated. “Plus it brought the team together.”
In his group, Cadet Iliyan Harrelson also focused on making a project centered on pursuing future goals and dreams.
“The program was really good because it helped me to relax,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.”
After their work is professionally animated and edited by Royer Studios, a movie premiere was held Friday at the academy in Salemburg.
“They’ll actually get to see their goals, their dreams and what obstacles they’ll need to overcome come to life on the big screen,” Granite said.
Royer Studios will show the academy’s project on their YouTube channel and Facebook pages, at “RoyerStudiosPSAs.”
“It’s a way for these young people to get their stories out there and share a little bit on the wisdom they learned along their journey,” Granite said.
The visit is one phase for AMAP. Next, more than 20 interested cadets will be selected for the next step for classes focused on photography, video production, music and audio engineering, graphic design and computer coding. During the third phase selected cadets will compete for a scholarship to attend Royer Studios, which will be based on attitude and performance.
Royer Studios received a grant from the Office of Naval Research, which coordinates, executes and promotes science and technology programs of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Royer Studios recently started the second of a three-year grant period at nine ChalleNGe sites across the United States. The studio was recently awarded an extension for another three years to work at other sites.
After working with 14 other ChalleNGe academies around the United States, Granite expressed how she enjoyed working with cadets and leaders at the Salemburg location.
“The level of care and excellence that I’ve seen at this academy is outstanding,” Granite said. “This should be a model academy for others to follow.”
Col Edward W. Timmons, director of the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, said the AMAP project is one of several opportunities provided to cadets during the year and to help provide comprehensive technology-based workforce development program to address STEAM deficiencies in the existing and future labor force. He added that the academy will continue the media capability for the foreseeable future as part of career pathways. The Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy in New London will go through the same process with the same training and equipment.
Timmons said he has an artistic side and loves to see cadets express themselves through art.
“Great emotional experience for the cadets,” Timmons said. “It allows them to draw out and express their feelings, thoughts and experiences and to display them in media. To see some of the emotional reactions as they expressed their experience through media was wonderful yet priceless. Everyone in the room could not help but to be affected by the stories. This was an opportunity for them to do some team building, to see and hear how all of them are focused on the same goal of being successful.”
Timmons expressed how the academy has a lot of talented students who engage in poetry, drawing and other art outlets.
“We’re continually blown away by the various talents that are shown by these cadets,” he said.
He showed appreciation to Royer Studios for bringing another element to the ChalleNGe program and said that partnership is another major asset that goes into the academy’s toolkit for student success.
“By bringing this technology and the Animate My Action Plan, it allows the individuals to move forward and it’s another aspect for the multi-tier education that we have to prepare the cadets and students for the 21st century,” said Timmons.