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Students with Special Needs Turn Experiences into Documentaries

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A group of high school students with special needs are drawing on their own experiences to make movies about freedom, and they're also getting a history lesson in the process. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Some students at Legacy High School say they don't always have the easiest time communicating.

I get, like, a little nervous and I'm not that confident," says student Caroline Adusei.

So this summer, they're working on that—and many other skills—by taking out a camera and making movies.

"To use a very particular medium—film and video—to kind of transmit an idea or to express themselves or to reinvent themselves in front of the camera, I just think it's a really positive experience," says Brian Paccione of My Block NYC.

Twice a week, the students, who all have special needs, walk about a mile from their school to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. They're split into groups, each focused on one of the freedoms from Roosevelt's famous speech.

"Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear," Adusei recites.

They shoot video and conduct interviews with one another and visitors to the park, which is located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island.

"It's pretty interesting, finding out a bit more about Franklin Roosevelt and his four freedoms," says student Wally Ford.

"I learned that he was one of the best presidents—although, that's an opinion," says student Joseph Lanzi.

In between visits to the park, they're learning how to construct mini-documentaries, using current events, archival footage and their own experiences.

"What are we filming, why are we filming it, what elements do we kinda want to include in the video and what emotions do we want to show," says student Bryce Henry.

The project is a partnership between the school, the park conservancy and the educational arm of a website,MyBlockNYC.com, which will host the finished products online.

"We're talking a lot about getting personal and having a voice and putting yourself out there for the world to see," says Paccione.

"Our goal is for each student to be inspired by Roosevelt's legacy and his vision of the Four Freedoms and realize they have an active voice," says Nellie Vishnevsky Chaban of the Park Conservancy.

That means not avoiding difficult questions, like when they turned the cameras on us and immediately wanted an opinion on the conflict in the Middle East.

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