IWitness Video Challenge winner Natalia Wang was inspired by testimony in IWitness to share a message of acceptance with her whole school.
Natalia and her teammates Alana Chandler and Yu Jing Chen won the 2017 contest with their video "Who Are You? Embracing Identity in Our Community." The three are rising seniors at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, and were encouraged to enter the contest by their teacher Matt Silvia.
Natalia said she, Alana and Yu Jing decided to focus on the theme of identity for their project, inspired by the current fractured political climate and social issues that have become more relevant in the past year. When searching in IWitness for a testimony clip to include in their video and to inspire their community service project, they were drawn to stories about how individuals responded with compassion to others' hardships.
One testimony clip that caught Alana's eye was from Kurt Messerschmidt, who describes helping a Jewish shop owner pick up shards of glass from his vandalized storefront under the orders of an SS soldier, while a crowd of people stood by and did nothing. Another testimony told the story of a man who took in two orphans after the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide and provided a good life for them.
"Both testimonies demonstrated that the character, compassion, and courage of others can have a significant impact on those it's directed to," she said.
In order to help their classmates develop the same compassion for others, even people who are different, Natalia, Yu Jing and Alana set up a table in their school hallway with art supplies so students could draw their own "identity maps," illustrating the unique aspects of their own identities. The drawings were then displayed for all to see.
Each student who participated in the project offered a new and different insight, Natalia said. Although students were sometimes unsure at first and hesitant to share their thoughts, they each eventually opened up and shared a special part of themselves.
"It opened my perspective on my own answer to the prompt and made me consider things I had not considered before," Natalia said.
Through the IWitness Video Challenge, Natalia learned new perspectives and ideas from people who identify differently than she does. She also appreciated developing her video editing skills, and was able to overcome scheduling challenges to work with her teammates and complete the project on time.
She encourages more students to enter the IWitness Video Challenge in the future because it's a fun and creative project that could have a significant impact on others. In Natalia's case, she hopes her winning video teaches others the power of acceptance and understanding.
"The testimonies themselves can teach the audience that courage and compassion can originate in anyone, and that these characteristics can be impactful in both small and large ways," Natalia said. "I would like the audience to understand and appreciate that each individual's identity is unique and valuable. Everyone has the right to be who they are, and I hope this video demonstrates that."