Music video director J.R. Saint recently led a new video-production program for students at Jamaica Plain’s Community Academy.
Community Academy at 25 Glen Road is a small, alternative public high school that serves students who have struggled in traditional classrooms.
Saint grew up in Lawrence, Mass., and is now a well-known music video director working with such major stars as 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and 2 Chainz.
“I’m not a billionaire, but I do well these days. But I grew up like these kids,” said Saint. “I grew up in trouble, getting caught with weapons at school. And when I see these kids who people have labeled ‘troubled, bad kids,’ when I see them so focused, giving me their undivided attention, they inspire me. When I see the light bulb go on in their head, that inspires me.”
“Some of our students have historically struggled with attendance and academic progress…[But they] make sure they arrive on Wednesdays regardless of anything else and most have improved this term,” Headmaster Harold L. Miller Jr. told the Gazette this week. “Students have actually been asking for J.R. the past few weeks as we have had to cancel school due to the snow. They are eager to finish the final production.”
Miller said that the kids realized the opportunity they were getting when they saw a picture of Saint working with 50 Cent, and again when Saint flew in from Miami for their class before flying right back.
“They realized that they matter. It capitalized that J.R. was really taking time out of his day to show students how to pursue this as a career,” Miller said. “They’re realizing he doesn’t have to do this. But he is. He wants to do this.”
“I’ll definitely do this again. It’s not about the money for me. But it is rough on my schedule,” Saint said.
Saint was told to expect three to five kids in his class. He has 15 students, with many others wanting to sign up.
The nine-week program that ran through this week was developed by Press Pass TV, a Boston-based organization that educates and employs youth with a focus on media education, production and character development.
They are already in talks with Community Academy to bring it back next year, Miller said.
“The kids bought in. They want to continue. Hopefully, next year we can expand the program,” he said.
Press Pass TV created the program with support from the BPS Arts Expansion Fund at the public-private arts partnership EdVestors.