Dear America, a middle-school nominee
  • Dear America, a middle-school nominee
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This year, the Media Arts Center San Diego has taken over production of the iVIE Awards & Student Film Festival, a program started in 2001 “to encourage and reward teachers who utilize video as a project-based learning tool in their classrooms.” The festival, hosted by Channel 933’s Ethan Cole, runs all day Saturday, June 3, at the Coronado Performing Arts Center. (“iVIE” stands for Innovative Video in Education; for tickets and more information, visit

One of this year’s middle-school nominees is Dear America, a five-minute feature from Rancho Minerva Middle School in Vista featuring 92-year-old Navy veteran Bob Noble and 14-year-old Odalis Ramirez. Both are San Diego natives, though both hail from families of immigrants: Noble’s forbears arrived in the early 1600s, while Ramirez’s parents came from Oaxaca in 1989. Each writes a letter to America — Noble’s focusing chiefly on his military career, Ramirez’s on her family and school — extolling its virtues and opportunities. (The film has already won a “Best Video of the Year” award at Panasonic’s 2017 Kid Witness News Competition in Newark.)

“With politics right now, we wanted to show the diversity of America,” explains Ms. Ramirez, an eighth-grader who helped create Dear America with a six-person project team under the guidance of teacher Beth Duncan. “How our lives are so different, yet we share the same values.”

The team was given the parallel-letters structure and set about turning that into a film.

“We filmed at Bob’s house for B-rolls, and then he did his voiceover in our classroom. Ms. Duncan really wanted dramatic angles, so we did that” — including a low-angle shot of Noble placing hand over heart before reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “We saw that when he says the pledge, he means every single word; he thinks about it. I do the same thing when I come to class. It describes America in its fullest form, and we thought it was vital to put it in there.”

Ramirez credits her experience in Duncan’s class for giving her both “a passion for videography and so many opportunities that I would never have gotten otherwise.”

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