2005-04-14 / Community

Teen-produced public service announcements reach other teens

By Sophia Fischer
sfischer@theacorn.com

By Sophia Fischer sfischer@theacorn.com

BILL SPARKES/Acorn Newspapers  PSA PREPARED FOR YOUTH BY YOUTH-Gabriel Sunday, 19, Sarah  Miller, 14, Rachel Knopfler, 17, and Amy Dockery, 19, of Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village work on a public service announcement (PSA) regarding the upcoming Gallagher fundraising event as David Miller looks on. The comedian is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. this Sun., April 17 at Westlake High School.BILL SPARKES/Acorn Newspapers PSA PREPARED FOR YOUTH BY YOUTH-Gabriel Sunday, 19, Sarah Miller, 14, Rachel Knopfler, 17, and Amy Dockery, 19, of Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village work on a public service announcement (PSA) regarding the upcoming Gallagher fundraising event as David Miller looks on. The comedian is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. this Sun., April 17 at Westlake High School.

Teen drivers can never hear enough about the importance of safe driving, but the message is most effective if it comes from other kids, say organizers of a local nonprofit group called Regenerate.

Regenerate’s mission is to educate youth about teen-related issues, including driving safety, suicide prevention and drug abuse.

Teens themselves write, film and edit public service announcements (PSAs) and films to educate others. The PSAs are distributed to nearly 500 cities throughout the state; they also run on Tribune television stations nationwide, on the Oxygen network and at school events.

"Kids are not really listening to adult messages on these subjects, but kids will listen to each other," said David Miller, Regenerate co-founder and a Westlake Village resident.

To help spread its message, the organization, together with SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), is hosting a 7:30 p.m. benefit concert this Sun., April 17 at Westlake High School. Comedian David Gallagher will host the event, which will benefit SADD, Regenerate and Westlake High School.

A fairly young organization, Regenerate is quickly growing, expanding in several directions to extend its reach as widely as possible.

A pilot program is being developed that will bring the PSA-making process into high schools next fall. The best PSAs created from participating classes will be incorporated into each school’s health class curriculum and will also be distributed through Regenerate’s regional, statewide and national distribution network.

"People say kids today have it so much easier than we did, but that’s not true," Miller said. "They have so much more pressure than we did. They have too many choices and too much information."

Regenerate is now making PSAs about another teen problem ––suicide. In addition, a documentary on suicide (hosted by Mariel Hemingway) has been completed. It’s called "To Save a Child." A feature film on suicide will also be shot this summer in Thousand Oaks. It will star Gabriel Sunday, 19, who appeared in the Disney Channel film "Now You See It."

"It’s hard for any kid to come onto a film project doing anything but getting coffee," said Sunday, who lives in Thousand Oaks. "But here the kids are the editing people, the filmmaking people, the music people, everything."

A 12-minute film addressing drunk driving called ".08" was recently produced by Regenerate for the California Office of Traffic Safety. It is used by the Santa Ana Police Department as an educational tool.

"We can prevent suicide by identifying elementary school children with depression," Miller said. "We need to reach them early." Regenerate was created as a result of a tragic accident in Westlake Village in 2001 that claimed the lives of three local teens. A concerned parent named Mark Barker contacted Miller, a media professional, to help get the safe driving message to kids. In 2002, the two men obtained a $10,000 grant from the City of Thousand Oaks to create a series of PSAs on traffic safety. Miller’s son, Jordan, a filmmaker himself and currently a freshman at Santa Barbara City College, suggested using the money to create Regenerate.

Now that Jordan and his friends who helped start Regenerate have graduated and gone on to college, his sister, Sarah, 14, a Westlake High freshman, is carrying the torch.

"I’ve had friends die in car accidents. It really impacts everyone’s lives," said Sarah, who enjoys editing PSAs. "Regenerate is a really good approach. It’s kids telling kids."

For benefit tickets and information, call (213) 300-1896 or visit www.regenerate.org.

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