Flucos Join Virginia is for Learners Initiative

November 20, 2019

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Photo provided by David Small

Senior Jules Shepherd working outside the convention center.

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Last February, Television Production teacher David Small was approached by former Fluvanna Superintendent Gena Keller (who at that time was working for the Virginia Department of Education, or the VDOE) in order to produce a documentary with students that would tell the story of the new initiative in the state called the Virginia Is For Learners Innovation Network.  The VDOE, along with the Virginia School Consortium for Learning-VaSCL, James Madison University, and Venture Capitalist and Education Change Agent Ted Dintersmith, began the task of networking 31 school divisions in Virginia in order to change the status-quo in education. FCHS seniors Jules Shepherd and Sasha Federico, and FCHS graduates Kevin Burruss and Jordan Winsheimer, began filming in March to tell this story of change from a student’s perspective, an idea brought forth by Shepherd.  As Burruss and Winsheimer have graduated, senior Kyia Scott took over the role of videographer.  

Advanced Learning Partnerships-ALP is a team of education coaches that have been traveling throughout the state offering hands-on support for the innovation teams in each of these school divisions.  As the student documentary team has been traveling around the state, they have been working alongside these teams capturing the struggles and successes of this change.

ALP CEO Amos Fodchuk invited members of the Fluvanna student documentary team to present at the iNACOL Symposium in Palm Springs in order to help tell the story of what was happening in Virginia to a national audience. With the support of sponsors Ted Dintersmith, the Fluvanna Rotary, VaSCL, and funds raised by the students, Shepherd and Federico were able to make the trip and present alongside the VaLIN team discussing the positive changes taking place in Virginia.  They were able to talk about the impact this has had on them as students and the things that have inspired them about the future of education in Virginia. The trailer for the students’ documentary, “Change It Up,” received an outstanding response from the attendees. VDOE State Superintendent Dr. James Lane, who is spearheading VaLIN, was in attendance and gave his best wishes to the student team.

Following the time at iNACOL, the students had the chance to travel to Los Angeles, California, where they met with an acquaintance of Small who is a storyboard artist with DreamWorks Animation.  There they had a private tour of the facility and saw original artwork from many of their favorite animated films. They also saw the ins and outs of the many departments that work together to create an animated feature film.  Federico and Shepherd were able to meet with a former student of Small’s, Tim Longo, who recently served as a project manager with ABC Television and currently is creating programming for multiple streaming services. 

Some of the most important qualities both of these gentlemen spoke of were the ability to show kindness in all situations and being passionate about what you do. 

Work on the student documentary continues with planned filming in Newport News, Loudoun, Suffolk, and Rockbridge scheduled for this winter. The documentary “Change It Up” is set for a spring release. 

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