Kodiak film program wins national award

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Washington, D.C. (KTUU) An Alaskan program that inspires young people to document their community gained national recognition and a nod from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Baranov Museum won a National Arts and Humantities Youth Program Award for its Summer Film Intensive. The summer experience is a partnership with AKTEACH and the Kodiak Island Borough School District.

For two weeks during the summer, middle and high school students work to create their own documentary films, from brainstorming to filming to editing. In the past five years participants produced more than 45 films related to the Kodiak community and historical events.

The film intensive's creator, Marie Acemah, and Kodiak high school student and participant Rafael Bitanga traveled to Washington, D.C., and received the award at the White House Tuesday.

Obama praised the program for helping students form connections to their community and for its ability to teach students real-life skills. She said Bitanga became a filmmaker and a photographer through the program, and started a photography business to help support his family.

"I could tell you about every single student or young person who's here today, but those are some of the stories you'll hear from them, and I want them all to know how proud I am of them," Obama said. "I'm proud of you guys. Always proud of you guys — you make this job worth doing."

The Summer Film Intensive is one of 12 programs that received the award.

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