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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts, Culture & Humanities, Arts Education, Children & Youth, Film & Video

Mission: Scenarios USA is a non-profit organization that uses writing and filmmaking to foster youth leadership, advocacy and self-expression in under-served teens. Scenarios USA asks young people to write about the issues that shape their lives for the annual "What''s the REAL DEAL?" writing contest, and thousands have responded with their raw and revealing insights. The winning writers are partnered with some of Hollywood''s finest filmmakers to transform their stories into award-winning short films. 15 million people a year watch the Scenarios USA films, at film festivals, on television and in high schools nationwide. Scenarios USA believes that by valuing youth and listening to their opinions, we can have an impact on promoting healthy relationships and lowering the rate of HIV, STIs and pregnancy among teens.

Target demographics: marginalized youth

Geographic areas served: NYC, CLE, CHI

Programs: Scenarios USA's programs include a REAL DEAL curriculum, educator workshops, internship programs, a writing contest to engage youth in thinking about their own behaviors and consequences, writing workshops led by professional writers, an annual gathering of health professionals, youth, filmmakers, and educators to address youth issues as they are raised in the young writers' stories, filmmaking with and in the local community of the winning writers, on-set mentorship program which partners professionals in the film industry with young people, distribution to schools, community groups, and teen programs to get youth talking about the issues and cultures as addressed in the films, regional screenings in the areas in which the films were made and a national screening which bring together the writers from around the country for a workshop and national exposure.

Community Stories

2 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

For almost two decades, Scenarios has worked tirelessly to bring youth voices to the forefront of social impact movements. In that time, we have worked with over 100,000 students and 4,000 teachers all over the country; produced 27 youth-written films; won awards at numerous film festivals worldwide; broadcast on major networks; and created five impactful curricula. We still have more work to do.

Join the movement to center young people in the conversations shaping their lives

Our mission is becoming increasingly more important. We have seen the transformative process of our program extend beyond the classroom and the films. The students find strength in their own voices and abilities to affect change, not only in their own lives, but also in the lives of their communities ' and the world. Every day, we are inundated with troubling news from all over. Never has the time to affect change been more crucial.

Scenarios aims to help young people become critical thinkers and active players in society. We support the process of storytelling and its effect on helping young people to identify who they are and the kind of impact they want to make-however they choose to make it. Many of our students have become filmmakers, but just as many have gone on to become teachers, writers, counselors, activists, and influencers in other fields. Many of our directors have credited their partnership with students making them better storytellers. Teachers have reported that their students were more engaged in school after participating in our curriculum. Still we have more work to do.

Review from #MyGivingStory

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

In the summer of 2014, I received a call from the universe. In this case, the spokesperson for the universe was named Rob York, and Rob was extending an invite from Maura Minsky and all the great people at Scenarios USA to direct a film for them. I said yes and since then, I have been giving my time and creative energies to this amazing organization. Scenarios USA is a non-profit that holds a competition every two years for high school students across America, where students are encouraged to submit stories that are either based on their own life stories or inspired by experiences that have affected them as teenagers. Three winning students are chosen, and those students are paired with Hollywood-based filmmakers to develop their stories into short films. The films are shot in the winning students' hometowns, air on Showtime Networks, and are sold to high schools across the country as part of a class curriculum.

As a director, Scenarios USA paired me with one of the winning students of their 2014 contest, an amazing young writer named Skyler Edge, who had written a story giving voice to modern-day trans teenagers discovering their true selves. This story became the film HOUSE NOT HOME'written by Skyler, produced by Scenarios USA and directed by me'and since its making, it has aired dozens of times on Showtime Networks, gone to multiple domestic and international film festivals'including NewFest, OutFest Fusion and the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival'and won multiple awards, including Best Transgender North American Short at the North Carolina Gay + Lesbian Film Festival.

One month after we finished shooting HOUSE NOT HOME in Skyler's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, about 250 miles away, a Cincinnati teenager killed herself by walking in front of a truck on a dark highway. Her name was Leelah Alcorn. Leelah was assigned male at birth and her parents refused to call her anything but by her birth name Joshua and even sent her to 'conversion therapy' to stop her from being who she was. At school, Leelah experienced the kind of bullying that Terran Spring, the main character in HOUSE NOT HOME, experiences throughout the course of the film. Leelah left an incredibly emotional suicide note on Tumblr, which was also a call to action, and we quote it at the beginning of HOUSE NOT HOME:
'The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren't treated the way I was, they're treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be talked about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something.'

I hope that Leelah is looking down on me right now, because I want to tell her this: Leelah, thanks to the incredible work of Scenarios USA, your words are being studied in high school classrooms all across the country. And Skyler, thanks to Scenarios USA, your inspiring story is being seen throughout the world. This is an organization that is truly changing the world by empowering youth to tell their stories and amplifying voices that need to be heard, now more than ever. It is an honor and a pleasure to have Scenarios USA at the heart of #MyGivingStory.

Review from #MyGivingStory