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Jeremy Teicher helps young Africans tell the world 'This Is Us.'

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"What's unique about this," he says, "was the process that enabled them to design the story from script to screen, so it really is their story."

In middle- and high-school classrooms, Teicher would pose questions such as, Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?

"They would look at the floor; it was almost painful to watch," he says. "But then they would take the cameras out on their own, and the same questions [would prompt] these passionate, really powerful answers."

After skits and storyboard meetings in which they opened up even more, the students did their filming and then wrote and voiced their narrations in French.

Dior Kâ created a film on arranged marriage. She shows girls in their colorful, patterned dresses as they wash dishes and care for babies.

"Her marriage was forced," she says in the narration, contrasting one young mother to the schoolgirls writing in their notebooks. "I think if she had the choice, she would have asked to go to school."

"I just want early marriage to stop. I want kids to be left free to go to school," Dior adds in a Monitor interview via Skype (Teicher interpreted from her French).

Project This is Us has been used as a teaching tool in the United States.

"There's very little out there to share Africa with children," says Sarah Nehrling, program coordinator at CyberSmart Africa in Senegal, who played an informal role as an adviser to Teicher. "Something as banal as a chicken running across the courtyard [in one of the films] will provoke a discussion by the kids," she says of showings she's attended in American classrooms.

The project was a finalist among eight other short documentaries at the 2011 Student Academy Awards.

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