Get to know BAVC Media’s Youth and Emerging MediaMaker (YEMM) Program Manager, Valarie Duran!
Valarie Duran grew up in the Bay Area surrounded by her loving Mexican American family, celebration, cameras, and creativity. Fast forward twenty years, she became a first generation college graduate from the University of San Francisco and New York University, with a professional background in media, education, and nonprofit management. She launched English language learning film and drama programs in Macedonia as a Peace Corps volunteer, and later had the incredible opportunity to travel on assignment documenting and guiding youth service learning trips all across the globe. With a camera in hand and students by her side, she zip lined in Costa Rica, walked the ancient Mayan Ruins of Tikal in Guatemala, visited a hilltop castle in Southern France, felt pure passion from flamenco dancers in Spain, and built foundations of three schools in solidarity with Haiti and Malawi.
After traveling with purpose, taking action, and being in discovery alongside students, Valarie now works as a photographer and our new Youth and Emerging Media Maker Programs Manager. When she’s not behind the camera or exploring the world, you can find her hiking, learning how to play the ukulele, roller skating, relaxing with yoga, watching films, supporting educational causes, or pouring her heart into her niece and nephew.
BAVC Media: When did you first cross paths with BAVC and what about the organization’s mission and vision resonates with you?
Valarie: While I was enrolled in Media Studies courses at the University of San Francisco, sometime around 2007, one of my professors introduced BAVC Media to me. I am excited to work for BAVC Media because our mission is to inspire social change and empower media makers to share diverse stories.
BAVC Media: What are 3 things that are currently bringing you joy?
Valarie: Learning the ukulele, getting outdoors with my fiance, and taking pictures.
BAVC Media: What are you most excited about in taking on this Program Manager role?
Valarie: Taking on this Program Manager role, I am most excited about designing and implementing year-round filmmaking and media making programs for young people that honors and embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
BAVC Media: What is your favorite movie of all time and why?
Valarie: I watch so many movies that it is hard to pick one. I can safely say that Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John is one of the most comforting. It wins for a movie that I have watched the most of all time.
BAVC Media: What compels and inspires you about working with young people?
Valarie: Young people are phenomenally interesting. I want to be a role model and help guide them to live to their full potential. However, I feel like they have a lot to give to their communities and teach us too.
BAVC Media: What’s something you learned in your previous work experience abroad from Costa Rica to Macedonia?
Valarie: While traveling with purpose, taking action, and being in discovery, I learned that life no matter where we are is about awakening the power of the heart.
BAVC Media: What are you currently watching? Reading? Listening to? Give us 1 of each.
Valarie: I’m currently watching the Cheer docuseries. I’m currently reading the book “Accidentally Wes Anderson” and being inspired by the curation of stunning photographs. I’m currently listening to She & Him Radio on Pandora or Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve on repeat.
BAVC Media: What is one unexpected thing you have learned about yourself from the beginning of COVID until now?
Valarie: I enjoy meeting new people, exploring new places, and immersing myself in diverse cultures, so it surprised me that taking quiet time to retreat at home was something I appreciated. Through reflection, I learned I am resourceful, stronger, and capable of so much more than I ever imagined.
BAVC Media: What are your favorite subjects to photograph? How did you get into photography?
Valarie: Growing up, I was surrounded by family members taking photos at parties. Back then, I had no idea being silly and playing around with cameras would take me down a professional path. In Spring 2011, I was unexpectedly offered a position documenting international youth service learning trips through photography and short films. This assignment was my crash course in photography and brought me to places such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, France, and Spain. It was also the first time I realized photography was something I was good at and enjoyed doing. I kept at it because photography helps me live in the present moment, feel alive, appreciate the beauty around me, and give the gift of freezing time to others. Now, my favorite subjects to photograph are diverse couples and growing families during the happiest times in their lives.
BAVC Media: What advice would you give a young person who has a story to tell but doesn’t know where to start?
Valarie: Follow your curiosities like bread crumbs. They will lead the way.
BAVC Media: If you could have dinner with any 2 ancestors or people who have passed on (celebrities, family members, anyone), who would they be and why?
Valarie: I would have dinner with Audrey Hepburn and Betty White in a heartbeat because I admire their spirit, funny bone, and generosity.
BAVC Media: Thanks for taking time to share a little bit more about yourself, Valarie! We couldn’t be more excited and honored to have you on the team.