People Z in Quarantine: Youth Media Alum Rises to Meet COVID-19 Challenge

Since the rise of COVID-19 and onset of stay-home orders in the U.S. and Russia, many young people have wondered what the future might hold, both for themselves and for their communities. For Katya Chekhomova, a rising media professional and former SEE Youth Media Exchange participant, the COVID-19 outbreak was an opportunity to engage her international peers and bring the global community into dialogue during an extremely difficult time.

Katya working on a recent assignment at
Urals Fashion Week, (March 2020).

“I decided to make this video about coronavirus because I’m 18 years old and I can say 100% that this is the biggest situation that will influence our future in every way,” Katya said in an interview with SEE. “We all know that people will have economic issues, but I wanted to talk about something that will change ourselves and our character. I wanted to understand how it will influence our generation.”

Katya, from Yekaterinburg, Russia, is an alumna of SEE’s Youth Media Exchange, an international platform focused on increasing cooperation between U.S. and Russian high school students through collaborative video production. In 2017, she participated in Disability Partnership TV (DPTV), a disability-focused youth media initiative that engages U.S. and Russian students in storytelling about disability-related issues.

“DPTV was a very big experience in my life,” Katya reflected. “It’s the greatest experience because we did this project in one year and had to produce content regularly on a very high level. This is really important for anyone who wants to be a part of media. In some ways the American and Russian teams didn’t understand each other, and it was a very good opportunity to make your comfort zone bigger.”

Katya with her Yekaterinburg teammates and DPTV
counterparts from Hempfield High School, PA
(August 2017).

Her experience with DPTV shaped Katya’s interest in social issues, and inspired her to create and single-handedly lead Special Stories, a project highlighting the daily lives and struggles Yekaterinburg families face in supporting their children with disabilities. These experiences would help Katya with her newest project, People Z, a video series focused on the lives and perspectives of Generation Z youth. Katya initially created this project to learn more about herself and her peers, and when COVID-19 broke out, she decided to create a video focused on the outbreak’s impact on her generation. Katya wanted to showcase how young people all around the world are experiencing the pandemic, and to bring attention to their thoughts on a future forever changed by this global crisis.

She decided to reach out to her former DPTV colleagues from the U.S. to see if they wanted to collaborate.

“I have friends in the U.S. from DPTV, and I decided to write to them to talk about this situation. I messaged Bailey, Jack, and Joe from the U.S. team, and they got back to me right away, and I was surprised because there is a 9-hour time difference.”

All three would go on to be featured in the video, along with peers from Russia, Spain, and Italy.

From determining how many stories to include, to developing a script and storyline, and interviewing peers from multiple countries, Katya knew the project would be no easy feat. However, employing the skills she developed with DPTV, she rose to the challenge.

Katya and her Yekaterinburg teammates visit Special
Olympics headquarters in Washington DC during the
DPTV study tour in the US (August 2017).

After interviewing her peers in Russia, the U.S., Spain, and Italy, Katya noticed that many shared similar beliefs about the pandemic’s impact on their generation. “The most common aspect everyone noticed during coronavirus was that we spent more time with our families. In the future we can say that we became more of a ‘family generation’ and we have a better connection with our parents.”

Her peers also believe that their generation will be much more emotionally prepared for another crisis of similar magnitude.

Katya has big plans for her future. She is currently on a gap year after finishing high school in order to spend time developing her projects and wants to attend university in either Moscow or Yekaterinburg next year. As for now, she is currently planning for the next episode of People Z, which will feature perspectives from her peers on patriotism. Special Stories is currently on hold due to the quarantine, but Katya is working on new ways to shift the project online.

Katya has some advice to share for her peers who dream of a career in journalism and media: “If I could talk to myself when I was younger, the biggest advice I would give is do more. Do more projects, do something you really like, look at your projects more critically. For me, the most important advice I got when I started in journalism was to try and find the topic you really enjoy. When you find it, you will find the inspiration to continue. I personally believe that for journalists and any creator that works in the media sphere, inspiration is very important and it’s very hard to find. The second piece of advice is to make sure you can complete everything by the date you promised. Staying on track and on top of your deadlines is the most important!”

We can’t wait to see what Katya accomplishes on her journey. Check out her video below and keep an eye out for this rising journalist!