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New media center opens to fanfare at August Martin HS

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For years, students at August Martin High School have been working to be the next Steven Spielberg or Walter Cronkite through its communication arts academy, but they have had to use equipment and material that were decades old.

On Friday, those future filmmakers got a major upgrade from one of the late City Councilman Thomas White’s final gifts to the school. The nearly $2 million Thomas White Jr. Media Center officially opened on the third floor of the high school, at 156-10 Baisley Blvd., with an opening ceremony fit for a Hollywood premiere.

The space boasts new equipment and amenities for the students, including high-definition cameras, a green screen, a state-of-the art soundboard and a director’s booth. Principal Anthony Cromer, an August Martin alumnus, said he used to be part of the program when he attended the school and he was shocked when he discovered that the classroom had remained untouched since then.

The arts academy is popular because it gives the teens a new outlet for creativity, according to the principal.

“These are kids who make their own short stories,” he said.

The 40 students in the academy work on various filmmaking projects, such as newscasts, documentaries and fictional movies. Some of the students performed a mock 11 o’clock news brief before the opening and showed how they could showcase the news on screen.

Other students were involved with filmmaking exercises that taught them the ins and outs of the movie industry. Not only did they have to write a script and put a cast together, they had to be able to pitch their movie to a group of student investors in order to see their work go to the next phase.

“It was exciting, I get to see what they do behind the cameras,” said senior Carlton Bartlur, 19.

The program has partnerships with Fox News and the Apollo Theater Co. and representatives from both organizations help out with the students’ projects.

For the last six years, Cromer said he has been trying to upgrade the academy for the eager students and help came when he spoke with White, who dedicated $1,750,000 to the school.

“When I first came here, he asked me what I needed. I said I needed something to get these kids motivated,” he said.

The principal honored White’s dedication to the school by not only naming it in honor of the elected official, who died in the summer, but also awarded a special plaque to his surviving mother Marie and son Bryan, who attended the ceremony along with Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) and state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village).

The studio has impressed the teens and they have been using it to help foster their filmmaking skills.

“I feel like a real professional,” said senior Tiyanna Cerallos.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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