What is your life’s purpose?
My life mission is to revolutionize education by teaching empathy and cross-cultural understanding and giving voice to the otherwise voiceless through film.
How are you living your purpose?
In founding BYkids, we have built a creative storytelling platform for social change. We help one young person make a short documentary film about his/her life and—through distribution including Public Television, Discovery Education and PenPal Schools—bring our films and curricula to over 106 million children in classrooms and living rooms across the country. This allows American young people to see and empathize with the lives of kids around the world, with the goal to develop cross-cultural understanding and social engagement.
How did you find your purpose?
I am a storyteller, having grown up in a family of storytellers—writers, novelists, historians. I was seeing a disenfranchisement of people with our Democracy; they felt powerless. I was seeing an isolationism in America as media outlets were shutting foreign news bureaus and I was seeing a patronizing tone to community service. I wanted to hear from the young people, always. They are authentic reporters above ego and politics and their voice was missing from all of this. Finally, I saw a chasm in how American schools teach our kids. They learn and express through moving image and putting a textbook on a tablet was not the answer. Film creates an emotional connection that is necessary for kids to learn.
What advice do you have for purpose seekers?
Get your hands dirty. Dive into something you are interested in and let your curiosity lead you. It is a spiritual thing. You find purpose in action, more than thoughts. Do, don’t think! Join a board of an organization doing work that speaks to you. Create an action group around some issue. Find something you want to change and figure out how to get there.
What resources do you recommend?
Nothing will inspire people more than hearing the stories of young people who have risen above their circumstances and bravely shared their story. Check out our films here.
If you are a teacher, you will love the PenPal Schools’ curriculum around these stories that allow your students to dig deeply into global issues with a personal, emotional connection.
PBS airs our films and helps to promote our shared perspectives and learning strategies. The PBS Learning Media site encourages a desire to learn and gain global insight.
I am scholar of the classics. There is something in the storytelling of Aesop’s fables, the Bible, the Greek Myths – all these stories are told illustrating emotions and character traits we all share. We all can be vain like Narcissus, burdened with a world of trouble like Atlas. Though we cannot literally hurl thunderbolts like Zeus, we can cripple people with our words. And we can nurture ourselves, others and the planet, like Hera. We can understand ourselves through the story of others.
Everyone has a story. I love any story told with honesty, vulnerability and empathy.
Connect with Holly Carter
Holly Carter started her career as a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist at The New York Times and has worked for 30 years as a journalist, editor, documentary filmmaker, fundraiser and non-profit leader.
Before founding BYkids, a national television series on PBS, Holly:
• Ran the Global Film Initiative, a foundation bringing feature films from the developing world to major cultural institutions across the country.
• Produced Media Matters, a monthly PBS magazine show about journalism
• Fundraised for The After-School Corporation, a non-profit initiative founded by George Soros that brings quality after-school programs to New York City public schools.
• Co-founded North Carolina’s Full Frame Festival, which has grown to become the largest documentary film festival in the world.
• Produced the award-winning documentary, Margaret Sanger, nationally broadcast on PBS.
• Received a Henry Luce Scholarship and spent three years in Korea—one year working as a photographer at a Korean news magazine and two years working as a freelance journalist.
• Edited and wrote for the The New York Times on the Editorial Page and in Business Day. During her tenure, Carter was part of the team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the 1987 stock market crash.
• Served on the Board of Trustees of Colorado College and Youth Design.