AYV Student Tackles Immigration Issue and Wins UN Award

Oscar Candelas knew families who risked everything to come to America for a better life. And he knew the consequences they faced crossing the border illegally. An Adobe Youth Voices student, Oscar had insight and the means to share the part of the story news reports left out. His documentary film on one young man’s personal experience, Transversing Walls, won him the PLURAL+ partner Global Block Foundation Award from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration.

Q: What problem were you trying to solve?

A: The immigration problem in the US is affecting families and communities across the nation. I wanted to show those who are against immigration the human side of the migrant story. I was hopeful that the film would help opponents understand this other side of the ongoing debate that affects 11.7 million immigrants living in fear, in the shadows and taking seemingly endless risks to help themselves.

Q: What was your vision? What was the impact you wanted to make?

A: My vision was to tell the story of my friend and introduce it into the broader context of the immigration debate in the United States. I wanted citizens to see our families and friends are people just like them. I felt it was important to have their voices and stories heard.

The impact I wanted to make was to enlighten people who are against immigrants, but mostly politicians who have control over those who cross the border illegally. I thought that highlighting what these families go through and the positive outcomes of having them live in this country, would improve the chances of offering them better opportunities.

“I wanted to show them that immigrants are actually contributing to the U.S. economy.”

Q: When do you first remember you wanted to tackle this issue? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

A: At first, I’m going to be honest, immigration was not a subject that came to mind when I was looking for a topic for my high school multimedia project. I was actually stuck without a focus for a few weeks. Until my teacher, William Cavada showed me a list of topics to choose from. I skimmed through the list and immigration was the one that caught my eye mostly because when you watch the news, oftentimes there’s a story about people trying to cross the U.S. borders, and with this crossing, come huge consequences.

Q: Tell us about your journey since then. How did you get to where you are today?

A: I first got involved in media making during my sophomore year at Mt. Pleasant High School. The multimedia class inspired me because it exposed me to other students’ amazing creations they worked on every day. The classroom was filled with computers, PC’s and Mac’s. I kept watching friends edit photos and create posters and films. This is when I realized that it was something fun for me to try out. I was then introduced to the course and ended up taking 3 years of multimedia, learning all kinds of creative designs from my creative teacher, Mr. Cavada.

http://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/files/2015/04/TransversingWalls2.jpgQ: Who has helped you on your journey?


A: I have to say that my teacher, Mr. Cavada was instrumental in helping me. He stuck by me and helped me see that I could make an impact in the discussion of immigration. I also benefited from the partnership with Adobe Youth Voices, CreaTV, C-Span and the Office of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren – all of whom enabled the production of Transversing Walls.

Q: What are your future goals?

A: My next move is to continue with my education at San Jose State University. I came to this university undeclared, but I am focused on engineering. I am undecided on what kind, but I do know it’s between civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. I feel like there is more coming into my life and anything can change my perspective on these majors. There is also the possibility of a meaningful media-related opportunity coming my way. I can’t say that I would rule that out because I have gained knowledge and experience in this area, and its potential impact.

Q: If you could ask the world to help you to help immigrants, what would your call to action be for them?

A: First, I would ask people to see immigrants as humans, as people just like them, with families, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. I would ask people to support immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the millions of United States residents who do not have legal papers. I want them to support the Dream Act by contributing to non-profits such as Educators for Fair Consideration who help undocumented young people fully realize their dreams and potential.

Q: How will the world be different because of what you have done?

A: I don’t know if I have made the world better, I do know that I was able to bring attention to migrant issues. I hope that by making my film I have helped my friend tell his story.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is afraid to pursue their ideas for solving an important social issue? What do they need to be successful?

A: Anyone who wants to tell an important personal story using film, I would tell them that you never know how your film might change the world. So I would say dream big.