During MEA Executive Director Jeff Key’s tenure as the Chairman of the Head-Royce School Fine Arts Department, he also served as the Director of the Head-Royce Summer Arts and Technology Institute for public middle school students (Oakland). In the summer of 2003, he began planning how to address the critical need to develop a more comprehensive program for public high school students that would give them unique opportunities to learn professional state-of-the-art media skills, while encouraging them to earn their diplomas and aspire to college or advanced professional development. Through the joint efforts of Jeff Key, Oakland public school staff and administration, and former students working in professional media, MEA was established as a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives in 2008.
In May, 2009, MEA successfully completed its first pilot project, a health education film for teenage audiences that was written, produced and edited by a group of nine seniors. MEA collaborated with the Life Academy of Health and Bioscience, and the O.A.S.I.S. Health Clinic in Oakland, to present information on the infectious diseases Hepatitis C and HIV. In May 2010, MEA produced a second film focused on Oakland International High School (OIHS), a public school for new immigrants and refugees who do not speak much English. MEA worked with OIHS students to teach them professional video production skills that enabled them to tell the story of this unique campus where 29 different languages are spoken.
The full MEA program was launched in September 2010, when the program expanded to teach media arts skills to 50 students, ages 15-18, in underserved high schools throughout the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). A project-based curriculum enables MEA students to work with professional media artists to produce films that tell the stories and reflect the richness of their diverse cultural communities. Students learn the critical thinking skills to analyze and understand their subject material within its context, and the practical skills to visually communicate what they have synthesized through powerful media tools.