Amherst Media Gives Back: Internships a Boon for High Schoolers


The Board of Amherst Media with the late Demetria Shabazz seated far right. The new home of Amherst Media will be dedicated to her in recognition of her contributions to Amherst Media and the greater Amherst community. Photo: The Graphic

The following article appeared originally in The Graphic on January 15, 2024. It is reposted here with permission.

Amherst Regional High School students with an interest in film now have an incredible local support system in an organization called Amherst Media, that offers them access to high-level equipment and internships with experts at its location on University Drive in Amherst.

Amherst Media was founded as the Center of Community Access Television (CCATV) in 1976, and became Amherst Community Television (ACTV) in 1989, but is now known as Amherst Media, according to its website. Since 1976, it “has been a dynamic, community-driven communication and technology center in Amherst, making it the oldest, continuously-operating nonprofit, Cable Access Center in the country.”

Amherst Media films and streams public education and government events, from School Committee meetings to Town Council meetings, and helps the community learn new media technology through training. 

According to Yanna Ok, the director of programming, who has been with the organization for two years, “Amherst Media allows regular citizens to be active participants and producers. It is a community access center that is dedicated to closing the digital divide and providing opportunities for everyone to experience the commodity of free speech.”

This summer, Amherst Media implemented its first high school curriculum, “designed to teach students skills that will help them in the workforce,” said Ok. In her role, she does general administrative work, helps people learn how to use equipment and how to “develop social media strategies,” facilitates and overseas internships, and shoots community events.

She said opening Amherst Media’s doors to students has been awesome.

“It is a real job, they are at a real TV station,” she said. ‘We create a safe space for anyone at any skill level.”

For the high school internship, Amherst Media offers three options: the production intern, the administrative assistant, and the social media intern. The six-week program consists of basic to advanced workshops. Ok and Rory Liddy led the program.

Amherst Media also provides college internships in the fall, winter, and spring semesters. During the summer program, high school students can collaborate with college students, she said.

Jackson Barber-Just, one of the presidents of the ARHS Film Club, said Amherst Media partnered with their club, formerly known as Hurricane Productions, to make a feature-length film called Fortune Favors the Guilty. But during the summer before Barber-Just’s senior year, he did an internship with Amherst Media, along with current seniors Magdalene Marcus and Cyrus Bouton-Donovan. In the internship, he said he learned sound design, video production, graphic design, cinematography, and editing. He said it was like “a summer-long video production class.” Amherst Media offers super high-quality cameras and sound production equipment, he said. “You don’t have to break the bank. The equipment is amazing. You get the full production sweep,” he said.

Barber-Just also had a lot of praise for the team at Amherst Media.

“Jim Lescault [the director of Amherst Media] is funny and young-spirited and a good person to run a media company, due to his charisma and tools,” he said. “Yanna and Alexis [Reed] are both really nice and helped us get stuff done. Rory is such a good artistic decision-maker and has a good teaching style.”

Ok said she hopes to encourage even more students to take them up on their offerings. She said it “takes practice, discipline, and drive, for someone who has a passion for video to get where you want.”

As a graduate of ARHS and a woman of color, Ok also wants to ensure that “students that look like me can enter the media field.”

To students, her advice was simple. “Come on down to Amherst Media,” said Ok. “There’s something for someone, whether it be video production, podcasting, video editing, photography, or social media strategy.”

She also encouraged community members to support its fundraising events. A recent success was the first Amherst Media Gala, held on November 18 at UMass. The gala was an all-encompassing event that included giving out the Jean Haggerty Award to the late Vladimir Morales and his wife Victoria Silva and celebrating the life of the late Demetria Shabazz, a former board president for Amherst Media who devoted her life to social justice.

The new headquarters of Amherst Media will be named after Shabazz, with support from community donations. According to an “In Memoriam” article on, Shabazz “always used her storyteller lens and voice to amplify truth, pursue dialogue, and educate, with students as her focus.” 

Ok believes one way Shabazz’s legacy will live on at Amherst Media is through its youth internships. “We provide an environment where newcomers won’t feel intimidated by equipment and editing. [Working with us] is an amazing opportunity.”

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1 thought on “Amherst Media Gives Back: Internships a Boon for High Schoolers

  1. what a wonderful partnership! thanks to amherst media for all of their contributions to the community, and to the indy for amplifying the voices of the youth journalists!

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