RealJobs: Saya April Hillman

I arrived on the Heights as a Studio Art major, mainly because I enjoyed being creative, not because I was any good at any art form.  I quickly realized that four years, and potentially a lifetime, “making art” was not what I wanted, and that I could be creative in other ways.  I declared as an English major sometime freshman year, and then later added Sociology to the mix as I realized that based on the electives I chose, I was halfway to a degree.

Community service was an integral part of my undergrad experience at BC, as it is for many Eagles, and I decided I wanted volunteerism to continue post-graduation.  I was accepted into a program that would bring me back to Jamaica as an English teacher, where I went as a junior with the Ignacio Volunteers.  But due to high-levels of violence, the program was cancelled a month before I was to leave; I found myself living at home in the suburbs and working in a coffeeshop; not the college-graduate lifestyle I had imagined!

Luckily, three months later I had my own place in Chicago and a job downtown.  I became a Program Manager at a non-profit that teaches reading via the arts to under-served Chicago Public School students.  My main responsibilities were to manage our teachers, set up schedules, coordinate assessment, and sell the program.  It was a wonderful first job in that I had a lot of autonomy and it introduced me to communities, Chicago’s poverty-stricken neighborhoods, that I had had very little interaction with previously.  After three years, I decided I wanted more of a challenge and moved onto an Associate Producer position at a non-profit that creates social-issue documentaries [I found the job posting on the BC Career Center website!].

Though I had no film background, my then-boss said he was willing to hire me as I had the social-issues experience and interest.  I worked on a documentary on Sargent Shriver, who started such programs as the Peace Corps and Head Start, and married Eunice Kennedy, JFK’s sister.  I traveled to the NBC archives in New York, LBJ library in Austin, the National Archives in DC, and had access to the private Kennedy family videos and photos at the JFK library in Boston.  I spent most of my time tracking down video, photo, text, and people to help shape the film.  It was a wonderful learning experience!  But my boss and I did not see eye to eye on various occasions, and after a year, I was let go.

That unexpected life hiccup was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Unsure what I wanted to do, just knowing I never wanted to work for anyone or in an office ever again, I made a list of all the things, no matter how silly, I wished I could get paid to do – http://macncheeseproductions.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/hello-world/.  And they’re all part of my professional life today.

I’ve been self-employed since 2004.  Though I started Mac ‘n Cheese Productions as a digital media company, the business accidentally yet welcomingly grew a connecting strangers-to-strangers branch, and now I’m just as likely to be a nametag-crafter or discussion-facilitator as I am to be an editor or videographer.

I shoot and edit video, and teach digital media (video, photography, and social media) to low-income elementary and high-school students.

I also help satiate the desire of people to grow their community via non-traditional, affordable, comfortable, and fun ways.

  • Minglers: people come to my home for an evening of expanding networks [social, romantic, professional].  The caveat – everyone must come solo.
  • Coffee: people meet at a coffeehouse for a discussion facilitated by me on all things entrepreneurial.
  • Smatterings: an e-newsletter that has a myriad of info from job openings to grant opportunities to activity suggestions to mechanic referrals.
  • Special Event: Example > Fear Experiment. 21 people who can’t dance and don’t know each other, 20 people who can’t improvise and don’t know each other, one choreographer, one improv teacher, 14 elementary-school students, and one show.

You can see video, photos, and various press on what I do at my website, http://www.macncheeseproductions.com/.

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