Fourth Annual Festival

Lean on Me

01:46 min
Youth Digital Story
Director: Harold Clinton
Producer: The Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT and Creative Narrations

Winner of the Youth Digital Story Award
Sponsored by The Waitt Family Foundation


More About Lean on Me from Natasha Freidus of Creative Narrations

In Lean on Me, first-time writer, director and editor Harold Clinton weaves together still images, song and his own voice in an inspiring drama of youth coming together to beat the odds. Shot on-site in Springfield, Massachusetts and featuring music by well-known singer and community activist Jane Sapp, Harold’s first person drama explores the potential of young people to identify problems and explore solutions in their neighborhoods.

Lean on Me was produced as part of a one-day digital storytelling workshop at the annual Martin Luther King Day youth event, Shake Up the World at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sponsored by MIT’s Center for Reflective Community Practice, Shake Up the World focused on young people’s ability to find their own voice and use it. Participants from youth organizations, schools, and community centers from Western Massachusetts and the Boston area came together for a series of interactive workshops, speakers, and performances.

Harold created Lean on Me in an interactive workshop on digital storytelling. During the course of only six hours, participants wrote and recorded stories, gathered digital images, and learned multimedia editing using iMovie. Eight youth created four stories addressing topics ranging from getting lost in the woods to their favorite musicians. At the end of the day, all stories were screened as part of a talent show that culminated the event. 

Intrigued by the idea of creating a video on a computer, Harold chose the workshop and decided to base his video on a play he had written two years earlier, in the fifth grade. After coming up with the concept, Harold described the process of the day as follows, “First I had to get the pictures, then I had to type it out, then I had to read it, and I had to record the song make sure the timing was all together and it made sense. It took all day, but it was fun! We had to rush it at the end we didn’t want to miss the bus (back to Springfield). I thought it would take shorter. I thought my brother’s [digital story] was better than mine.”

Harold also discussed why he chose his piece’s message of collaboration and determination.  “I want people to learn that two heads are better than one. If I try to do something on my own, and then my brother tries to help me, then it goes fast and it’s easier. If you give up on yourself then nothing will be accomplished.”

Harold is part of a growing movement of digital storytellers in Springfield, MA. January of 2004 marked the launch of T.O.L.D., Telling Our Legacies Digitally, a multi-ethnic group of digital media trainers that represents the City of Springfield. T.O.L.D.’s mission is to preserve the history, culture, ideals, and legacy of our people through the use of digital media. T.O.L.D. is an outgrowth of a collaboration between The Center for Reflective Community Practice at MIT and the North End Outreach Network, and is committed to the following goals:

  • To develop an ethical way of working with technology in our community.
  • To support the development of media generated by us, for us, that reflects and affirms our lives.
  • To integrate the use of digital storytelling into other realms of community activity including youth development, senior activities, economic development, public health, public lectures and public safety.

Lean On Me is a winner of the See Change Make Change contest held by, the first comprehensive Web portal for youth media distribution.


Fourth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival, family & society, youth
Creative Commons License: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works