Justin and Travis, October's Volunteers of the Month

October 5, 2020 | 826 Blog Post

We’re not sure where we’d be right now if it weren’t for Justin Schell and Travis Blake. When they answered our call for video support, we were in the middle of our transition to online programs. What we had: lots of questions, many ideas, plenty of worries. What Travis and Justin had: brilliant expertise, endless patience, abundant professionalism, and ample generosity. We’re not exaggerating when we say that Justin and Travis made our move to virtual programming successful. We cannot thank them enough!

Outside of volunteering with 826michigan, Justin and Travis are both experts in their fields. Justin works at the University of Michigan as the Director of the Shapiro Design Lab, where he works with students as they take on big digital projects. Justin is invested in figuring out ways that the university and greater community can work together. We are incredibly grateful that he shares our value for sharing our students’ voices and stories to as wide an audience as possible. 

Travis is a Detroit-based freelancer who edits and animates videos. If his name is familiar to you, it might be because he was mentioned in a shout-out in June’s Volunteer of the Month post! Travis deserves to be doubly celebrated for all his incredible videography contributions to 826michigan. Not only is Travis an all-star videographer, we also recommend that he add “educator” to his resume—he did an outstanding job teaching the 826michigan staff about how to make better and more effective videos.

Justin and Travis offered amazing contributions to make a virtual 826michigan season possible. Justin spent who-knows-how-long sifting through the Zoom footage from our Young Authors Book Project book release party—and friends, this was quite the release party! We were so lucky to have a very active audience for this event, with folks Zooming in from phones, Zooming in while driving, Zooming in with their mics muted, Zooming in with their mics unmuted, Zooming in while the Internet cut in and out . . . in other words, we had a LOT of footage. Justin took this wonderful complicated heap of footage and worked with the staff to make clean, beautiful, short clips showcasing students’ voices and stories to share on social media. Justin is dauntlessly working on a second set of a similar project, because he is our hero. We are SO thankful for Justin’s time, wisdom, humor, and expertise.

Travis contributed his world-class videography skills to our transition online this season. In addition to animating the Dr. Blotch’s Student Writing Videos, he worked with our Education Director, Catherine, over the summer on an ongoing project to create family-facing instructional videos to support our writers at home. Travis took some very rough-cut material and made it shine; we are in awe of how he works so quickly and makes such visually dazzling things. Not only did Travis work magic on the screen, but he also took the time to teach 826michigan staff important videography skills. Travis taught us how to make professional-looking videos even when filming on a cell phone or at home, and taught us about stuff like indoor/outdoor lighting, which, as it turns out, is pretty important. Travis taught us to think like filmmakers, and was the most flexible, kind, and professional teacher as we entered this new genre.

In a time when we felt out of our element, Justin and Travis contributed their unique and incredible skills to help 826michigan stay on our feet. We are incredibly grateful to them for their patience, insight, generosity, and creativity. Their expertise has been so important to us as we transition into the virtual space; we look forward to continuing to learn from and collaborate with them in the future. To learn more about each of our Volunteers of the Month, check out their profiles on our MOTHERBOARD website. Justin and Travis: THANK YOU!

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