Teen’s dream gets TV wings

Cinema-night plan puts pupil among ‘Future Leaders’ Schauderville teenager Michaela Witbooi is looking to rid her community of alcohol abuse by rekindling a community cinema culture that will keep people off the streets and engaged with each other. Seventeen-year-old Michaela begins her quest to reform the gang-ravaged community when she features in season four of the popular television series Future Leaders, which starts next week. With Nelson Mandela Bay DA PR councillor and NMMU masters student Samantha Beynon, 26, as her mentor, Michaela will tackle alcohol abuse and other related issues affecting Schauderville. The popular series forms part of a South African Breweries-endorsed campaign against underage drinking. It aims to discover and develop young leaders while creating awareness around critical social and economic issues. Paterson High School Grade 10 pupil Michaela will look at reviving the cinema culture, once a popular feature of the Schauderville social scene. To do this, Afree Cinema, a local distribution company under New Brighton Pictures, has sponsored a mobile cinema that will tour the northern areas showcasing films produced in her community. Michaela, who lives with her parents in a makeshift two-bedroom house at the back of her grandmother’s house, told Beynon she would like to see her community spread love and appreciation because drug abuse and violence started with “a lack of faith and hope”. Through the “cinema nights” she hopes to looks at ways of curbing underage drinking, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and violence in her community. She will also be tasked with visiting clinics to speak to young mothers about the dangers of alcohol abuse during pregnancy. Beynon has had a number of discussions with Michaela since their first meeting in July. “Michaela is determined to realise the vision for her community project,” Beynon said. “She is a selfless person who always puts the needs of others above her own. “At her young age she demonstrates the skills of critical consciousness and thought.” Beynon herself is no stranger to being a leader. She was deputy president of the NMMU student representative council in 2013 and a runner-up in season three of the One Day Leader television show in 2014. She was nominated for Young South African of the Year at the ANN7 South African of the Year awards in the same year and was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Leadership at NMMU. Asked if Michaela had the potential to become a leader, Beynon said: “Indeed. She is admired and respected by her peers and community members because of her kind, considerate personality. “Like any teenager, she likes to have fun, but when it’s time to work, she really goes the extra mile.” Beynon said Michaela – who cannot speak to the media as part of the television show’s rules – had told her that her vision for the northern areas was to see people calm, happy and interacting freely, without fear. The show starts on SABC 1 on October 18, and will run for 13 weeks, featuring five other contestants.