Giving Kids A Video Voice

By Keali'i Lopez
Wednesday - May 19, 2010
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By Keali’i Lopez
President & CEO of ‘Olelo Community Media

When I tell people that I work for ‘Olelo, they often recognize us as the providers of community-access television. Yes, we are that, and much more. Tune in to our channels and you may come across important programs like Candidates in Focus, which features 13 of the 14 candidates currently running for U.S. Congress. Or you may catch a local flag football championship game, an Ilocano variety show, a sustainability conference or a community town hall meeting. With six dedicated channels airing programming 24 hours each day, there is literally something for everyone on ‘Olelo.

‘Olelo is celebrating 20 years of service this year, yet it isn’t common knowledge that the majority of programs that fill our channels are made by the community members themselves. As a private, nonprofit provider of community access television services and resources, ‘Olelo’s mission is to promote lifelong learning through the creation, production and cable-casting of programs aimed at the preservation, development and enhancement of the diversity of thought, culture and heritage on Oahu. We also aim to increase civic participation in the democratic process by promoting understanding and informed use of electronic media.

We continue to stay committed to giving voice to the people, to share their stories and ideas about issues of importance, to foster community engagement and well-being.

(from left) Justin Billings, Edgar Sagayaga, Keali’i Lopez, Zachary Cruz and Jon Wong

I am so proud of our community producers, our staff, and how far we’ve come, but one of the programs of which I am most proud is ‘Olelo’s Youth Xchange, now in its seventh year. It’s Hawaii’s first and largest issues-oriented, student video competition. This spring, we received a record 575 videos by more than 1,200 K-through-12, public-, private-, charter- and home-school students from 81 schools statewide.

Youth Xchange seeks to give our keiki a venue for their voices to make their opinions known and to “speak strong,” which is the program’s motto. Our greatest hope is that our keiki realize the impact they can have on issues that affect our community - and their world. They’ve spoken out on issues such as climate change, recycling, peace, healthy living, traffic safety, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and teen suicide, to name a few.

On April 24 ‘Olelo held its second annual Youth Xchange Video Marathon at Pearlridge Center. All 575 student-produced videos were continuously shown on several large-screen monitors over a nine-hour period!

Many participating K-through-12 schools, teachers, students, families and friends gathered at Pearlridge that day to cheer for their favorite videos and their young producers. I witnessed the pride and love shining on the faces of the families as they saw their child’s work on the big screen, but most important to me was the obvious pride that showed on the faces of the students themselves.

It is rare to see students so engaged in sharing their message with the public.

It’s even more rare to see adults watch from the sidelines, thoroughly impressed with the creativity and insight displayed by these students’ works.

That’s why I love my job. Year after year I watch student producers with the support of their teachers and families, make an impact on their peers, who learn about issues of importance to their generation. And through this experience with community access, they learn what it is to become empowered citizens.

I encourage you to learn more about the 2010 Youth Xchange competition by visiting, by calling ‘Olelo Community Media at 834-0007, or by following Youth Xchange on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about ‘Olelo Community Media, visit


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