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From YOUmedia to HBO: The Story of Brandon Towns

An enormous THANK YOU to Brandon Towns for his generous $5,000 donation he earned from HBO’s “Everyday Heroes” program.

Brandon Towns goes for the shot
Brandon Towns goes for the shot

High school student and budding videographer Brandon Towns has been awarded  $5,000 from HBO’s“Everyday Heroes” program to go toward a nonprofit of his choice. His chosen recipient? The Chicago Public Library Foundation, with the funds designated to the YOUmedia program.

A student at King College Prep Academy, a Chicago Public Schools magnet, Brandon has been making movies since he was 10. He visits YOUmedia nearly every day to help hone his skills and build his portfolio.

Jeremy Dunn, Director of Teen Services at CPL, notes that Brandon is a typical YOUmedia user in some ways and atypical in others. “[Brandon] exemplifies the epitome of an individual leveraging the opportunities [offered by YOUMedia],” said Jeremy. “He has become so accomplished that even before graduating high school he is starting to operate as a professional. This is the direct result of the skills he’s gained and connections he’s made with the help of a trained YOUmedia mentor.”

One of the greatest assets YOUmedia provided Brandon – and provides teens at all of its 12 locations – is free and open access to professional-grade tools and software systems. YOUmedia is fortunate to have industry-standard design software, such as Adobe Suite, professional grade photography equipment, hobbyist-grade 3D printers, and even a recording studio with sound equipment.

Brandon started visiting YOUmedia in 2013, when he was just a freshman in high school. “That was a rough year for me,” he said. “[YOUmedia] really helped me get out of a slump and express myself as an artist.”

“The big message here is that there are endless opportunities available for kids to explore their interests and discover new skills. It’s all about finding ways to express themselves while developing a skill set,” said Dunn.

Brandon prepared the following thank-you speech for a recognition event at YOUmedia:

“Thank you, YOUmedia, for changing my life and giving me the opportunity of becoming the person I am today. Specifically, thank you to the YOUmedia team: Jennifer Steele, Avri Coleman, Jeff Lassahn, Taylor Bayless, Marshall Caal, Matt Jensen, Adrienne Strock, Marcus Lumpkin, Marcellous Lovelace and the late Brother Mike Hawkins.”

Chicago Public Library Foundation is deeply grateful for both Brandon’s unexpected gift, and for the many years of generous funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, whose support has made YOUmedia possible from the very beginning.

Currently sponsored as well by Allstate Insurance Company, YOUmedia has benefited from past support from  Chicago Game Changer Award, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, Pearson Foundation, the Albert Pick Jr. Endowment Fund, and the Kathy and Grant Pick Fund at the Chicago Public Library Foundation. The City of Chicago has provided generous funding for YOUmedia expansion and staffing.