Inside the Rise Up Community Center in Westminster, a special effect light cast a green glow over the teens faces Thursday evening as they watched a video editor at work.
He used drone footage of his dog, joyfully racing through a field as she chased the drone, as an example as he cycled through different effects in an editing program. The teens were attentive, joking and asking questions about free software options for those just getting started.
The videographer was Cory Schwab of CdSVisions. He has worked on several projects with South Carroll-raised, Westminster-based rapper Billy Lyve (given name Billy Dee Williams) and his company, Wisdom Court Entertainment. Every Thursday, Lyve comes to the community center as a youth mentor.
Rise Up is a mentoring program through Together We Own It that provides “a safe space for youth to discover their strengths and abilities and to explore opportunities for success through community engagement, restorative practices and positive youth development,” according to their mission statement.
Some of the kids there are from the general community, and some are referred there by the Department of Juvenile Services as an alternative to probation or detainment.
Schwab started out on Thursday with a presentation for the group. He said, “We’re just going to scratch the surface without overwhelming anyone.”
He showed examples of his work before choosing a sample beat and looking at ways to manipulate raw footage in an editing program.
They also talked business. Schwab listed the kinds of events and projects he works on and talked about the importance of having a good demeanor when seeking out work.
“It’s honestly a world of possibility,” he said of the field.
Lyve said the kinds of activities he tried to bring to Rise Up are based on what’s important to them and what gets them interested. He brought in Schwab because one of the teens talked to him about a growing interest in video production.
“When I think about, like youth groups ... there might be a basketball hoop or something, but they don’t really get engaged with the kids. But we bring a different element because a lot of the stuff that the children like is what we do. Like, I’m in the hip-hop world, every day it’s what I do. I look like a kid, I dress like a kid. So they’d be more willing to hang out and talk to me than a dude who looks like a teacher.”
They’ve visited a local barber to see the craft up close and personal, and brought in the Baltimore group Beats Not Bullets, which made beats with the kids and showed them how to lay their own vocals on top.
The partnership between Wisdom Court and Rise Up strengthens both, Lyve said, because he can be an adult male role model for kids who need them, and the directors of Rise Up, Angel Hill and Katie Kirby, can do the same as women.
It has only been a few weeks since the groups could start meeting in person again, and they’re taking precautions like wearing masks and keeping distance in the center. In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic-related shutdowns, they moved locations, and are now on John Street.
Kirby said it’s been a blessing to have almost four times the space so they can spread out and keep doing activities.
Both Lyve and Schwab were honest about how COVID-19 has been tough on their industries, with the cancellation of so many gatherings and performances. In late July, Lyve is putting out new music called “The OATH.” Each album bundle includes a custom face mask. Social distancing meet and greets start in August, including one in Westminster.
Lyve said he thinks the kids are happy to see one another again and for some to have a place to go outside their homes. For a lot of kids having behavior issues, he said, “Sometimes their houses are hell ... them being outside in different environments is their escape.”