Short Documentary Made at UCR ARTSblock Takes Prize at the PBS Student Media Festival

Italia Garcia’s story is told in a short documentary about the struggles of undocumented college students

Written by Pat Murkland

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — As an undocumented immigrant striving for a college education, Italia Garcia is the subject of an award-winning short documentary screened last month at a Hollywood celebration at the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the site of many historic premieres.

woman looking left

A still from the winning video “Italia Garcia — Dream Activist” by Je’don (Roc) Carter, Cassandra Garcia, Jordan Tick, and Mariana Crespin. Courtesy UCR ARTSblock

PBS SoCal plans a show on the winning videos on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.

The short documentary film, “Italia Garcia — Dream Activist,” produced by teenagers last summer in a UC Riverside ARTSblock video workshop, recently won a prize in the PBS 47th Annual California Student Media Festival’s Secondary After School/Extra-Curricular category.

The film was the result of a free summer “Off the Block” workshop that teaches teenagers ages 15-19 how to produce a short video documentary, including interviewing, filming, and editing. This summer’s 24 teen producers, chosen from among a large field of applicants, will begin their work Tuesday, July 9, instructor Scott Hernandez said.

UCR ARTSblock, a downtown complex that provides a cultural meeting ground for town and campus, is seeking grant money to help continue the annual workshops. Documentary topics are those vital to teens and the Inland area, Hernandez said; for example, last year’s videos included a short on small businesses trying to stay afloat.

three people looking at a clipboard

Italia Garcia works with volunteers from Mi Familia Vota in this still from the short film “Italia Garcia – Dream Activist.” Photo courtesy UCR ARTSblock

The approximate nine-minute video tells how Garcia, now a UC Riverside student, speaks out for the dreams and rights of the undocumented.  “I feel powerless, I feel discouraged, I feel confused, I feel inferior. I feel crushed. I feel rejected. I feel heartbroken,” Garcia declares in the film. “I want to be free. I am determined and hopeful.”

Born in Mexico City, she came to the United States at age 10. When enrolled at Riverside Community College, she ran successfully for student body president, feeling it would motivate others. She said the California Dream Act, which since has become law, would allow her to apply for financial aid instead of working two or three jobs while attending college full time at UC Riverside; the proposed federal act would allow her to work for her citizenship.

“Italia Garcia — Dream Activist” was the project of students Je’Don (Roc) Carter, Jordan Tick, Marianna Crespin, Cassandra Garcia. Instructors were Hernandez and Jason Chou. Mentors were: Jasper Bernbaum, Grace Cohen, Mikenzie Denholtz, Philipp Girke, Michael Papavero, Sarinah Simons, and Isabel Flores.


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