One of the most celebrated photographers of the year was a self-taught Baltimorean who rose to prominence by shooting striking, candid images of his city during this year’s unrest and afterward. Thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, Johns Hopkins’s new youth filmmaking program will help train more of Baltimore’s young people to document their world on film.

Starting this spring, the university will offer filmmaking workshops to around 100 Baltimoreans ages 16 to 29 each year, with a particular focus on ex-offenders. The programs will be free–and in fact students will actually earn a stipend for attending. Faculty from Hopkins, MICA, Morgan State, and Peabody will all be involved. The hope is that workshop participants will not only find a new way to tell important stories about themselves and their communities, but also that they’ll build skills in a crucial new medium. (Wide Angle Youth Media, a Baltimore non-profit, has similarly been working to put cameras in the hands of Baltimore youth for several years now.)

The initiative brings together two of Johns Hopkins current priorities: an emphasis on film and media studies, and its attempt to become more involved in the city. The Parkway Theatre (which Hopkins jointly operates with MICA) in Station North is an example of both of these trends.

“Video is such a powerful contemporary medium for people to tell their stories and share their ideas,” Hopkins president Ronald J. Daniels told the Hopkins Hub. “Our city suffers from so many different solitudes that do not connect to one another. We believe that by giving cameras and skills to our kids, we create an avenue for empowerment and a foundation these young people can use to help unify our city.”