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Cal State LA foster students take short film to White House

Two Cal State LA students named finalists in the White House South by South Lawn arts festival

Left%2C+Jevonne+Davis%2C+Middle%2C+Leanne+Caldejon%2C+right%2C+Angel+Marie+Velasquez
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Cal State LA foster students take short film to White House

Left, Jevonne Davis, Middle, Leanne Caldejon, right, Angel Marie Velasquez

Left, Jevonne Davis, Middle, Leanne Caldejon, right, Angel Marie Velasquez

DCSF

Left, Jevonne Davis, Middle, Leanne Caldejon, right, Angel Marie Velasquez

DCSF

DCSF

Left, Jevonne Davis, Middle, Leanne Caldejon, right, Angel Marie Velasquez

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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Rolling, slates, action!

When a group of foster youth produce a short film, they might expect it to be screened at a local film festival. But for such a film to end up at the White House, grabbing the attention of the President himself? Well, that’s a whole different story.

This past October, three foster teens were named finalists in the 3rd Annual White House Student Film Festival, receiving the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama.

The awardees were flown to Washington D.C. to participate in the first-ever White House South by South Lawn arts festival, consisting of panels and screenings.

The students were originally chosen by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services to work with Kids in the Spotlight (KITS), a nonprofit in Burbank dedicated to teaching filmmaking skills to youth.

This past summer, the students worked on their film, entitled “Time for Change.” In it, they act out characters from different time periods, who have gathered at a round table meeting.

One student, Leanne Caldejon, plays a stereotypical millennial who is keen on Starbucks and selfies.

Unlike her character, Caldejon endured a rough childhood, being physically and verbally abused by her family, until she ran away at age 14. After living with her foster family for four years, Caldejon moved out because she wanted another foster child to take her place.

Throughout high school, Caldejon worked three jobs, participated in seven school clubs, and competed in two Varsity sports. Now, she is double majoring in social work and law at Cal State LA in hopes of becoming a foster youth lawyer.

Another student, Angel Marie Velasquez, plays a peasant woman in the film, who yearns for a better future for her children.

Velasquez is also a freshman at Cal State LA, studying to be a filmmaker.

With students with this level of fortitude, it was only a matter of time before it was brought to the attention of others at California State University.

Professor ChorSwang Ngin of the Anthropology Department, has taught Caldejon this past semester, and after discovering her accomplishments, knew it was a story that had to be told.

So here’s to the reluctant heroes. Here’s to the ones who make a difference in this world.

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