NAU pilots first Hispanic/Latine Youth Media Workshop

Univision reporter Hector Lagunas and Flagstaff Unified School District students pose with a video camera in a blue room.

This weekend, the School of Communication hosted its first Hispanic/Latine Youth Media Workshop, a free two-day seminar for Hispanic and Latine high school students looking to engage with and explore the film and visual communication fields.  

NAU faculty members led 13 Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD) students in hands-on virtual reality, stop motion and game design demonstrations designed to introduce them to media production and the college experience.  

The workshop was open to high school students who filled out a digital application, which required a 100- to 200-word written essay or a two- to three-minute video essay for consideration.  

“These students are doing something that they may have never thought they were capable of doing,” said Paul Helford, a teaching professor in the School of Communication and the department’s workshop director. “This has the potential to be a life-changing experience.”  

Hispanic/Latine Youth Media Workshop logoWith years of workshop success under his belt, Helford began developing the Hispanic/Latine Youth Media Workshop last year after professor Rima Brusi visited the 2023 Indigenous Youth Media Workshop. Hoping to create a similar opportunity for Hispanic and Latine youth, Brusi helped the School of Communication secure funding through the Office of the President to build this year’s weekend-long training experience.   

In November, the team reached out to Hispanic and Latine faculty within NAU and FUSD to develop workshop goals, recruit instructors and identify potential projects for incoming students, eventually deciding to branch out to visual communication topics outside of broadcast journalism.   

Patricia Aline Murphey, director of the VisualDESIGNLab, also worked with workshop leaders to develop a one-of-a-kind pink and gold floral event logo to be displayed on promotional materials and T-shirts and stickers that went to every involved student and faculty member.  

“I hope these students want to come back and tell their classmates how cool it is,” Helford said. “To me, the most special thing about this workshop and the Indigenous workshop is that they’re free to the participants. There are very few opportunities like that.”  

A high school student holds a microphone in a blue room.
A Flagstaff Unified School District student holds a microphone in the Communication building during the Hispanic/Latine Youth Media Workshop on June 2, 2024.

The workshop covered a variety of communication skill sets and methods of storytelling through virtual reality and game design lessons with Graham Hagerty, the director of NAU’s Advanced Media Lab; animation exercises with visual communication professors Chris Johnson and Austin Frick; short film and filmmaking equipment tutorials with creative media and film professor Xin Yi; and zine making with visual communication professors Ivan Delvasto and Shelby Rinke.

Students also heard from Hispanic and Latine reporters excelling in their fields who described their career journeys, including Arizona’s Family reporter Gibby Parra and Univision reporter Hector Lagunas. 

Faculty instructors were also supported by NAU student production assistants, including recent creative media and film graduate Angel Rafael Rodriguez III, creative media and film student Aaron Rodriguez and visual communication majors Adrian Chavez and Karen Morales 

Aaron Rodriguez said he was grateful for the opportunity to work with his faculty mentors. The workshops not only helped demystify working in the arts but also allowed him to promote the college experience for the next generation of visual communication students.  

“It was really cool to work with kids who are mostly first-generation college kids like me and who are interested in this college,” he said. “They may not even be interested in film, but they are getting to try it out while meeting new people and faculty. They’re getting all those connections right off the bat, so they get a huge step up. I think it’s awesome that I was a part of that.” 

Helford said he hopes to expand the Hispanic/Latine Youth Media Workshop to an annual event in the future if the school procures enough funding.  

To learn more about the summer workshops offered by NAU’s School of Communication, visit 

The NAU Review