Fifteen from South County high schools pursuing documentary project
MENLO PARK — Fifteen students from Menlo-Atherton and Summit Preparatory high schools will leave affluent San Mateo County on Tuesday to complete a month-long documentary project in rural Nepal, where the only high school for miles is made of mud and stone and holds a chalkboard if students are lucky.
The students will find out what it’s like to be a high school student in Nepal, where students literally have to walk for hours through snow to get to school, and learn the ins and outs of professional documentary filmmaking and photojournalism, said Kenny Meehan, teacher at the Riekes Center for Human Enhancement.
Students have already spent considerable time operating cameras and conducting interviews with each other, Meehan said. They’ll be taking as much raw footage as they can over the course of the month and will compile the documentary and accompanying photo essay book — complete with their own reflections on the trip.
The group plans on submitting the documentary to film festivals and public television stations.
Menlo Park resident Lexi Bradley, who will be a junior at Summit Preparatory in the fall, is one of five students working on the photo essay portion of the project.
She said this is her first big trip outside the country, and hopes it will sharpen her keen interest in photography.
"I wanted to be exposed to a completely different culture and experience a different country," Bradley said.
Menlo Park resident Dean Wenstrand, also a soon-to-be junior at Summit, is one ofthe ten students putting together the film. He has already traveled to Europe, Canada and Japan, but has never visited a developing country.
"How different from Menlo Park can you get than Nepal?" Wenstrand asked.
The students were picked by teachers from the Riekes Center — a Menlo Park-based after-school center that encourages leadership and team-building skills through filmmaking, athletics and nature studies — based on essays explaining why they wanted to travel to Nepal.
Meehan, who visited this high school in Nepal a few years ago with fellow Riekes teacher Matt McCroskey, said he believes Nepalese people embody "very personal levels of interaction" that could translate well on film.
"It’s a really fascinating country that’s very different, yet not so different in many ways," Meehan said.
Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world — with almost one-third of its population living below the poverty line, according to information from the CIA — with agriculture as one of its economic mainstays.