Yara Shahidi Takes on New Role with Ghetto Film School: 'I'm Excited to Get Going'
Yara Shahidi is adding yet another title to her already impressive résumé.
On Wednesday evening, the 21-year-old grown-ish star announced that she is the Ghetto Film School's new international thesis advisor.
Shahidi shared the announcement via a previously recorded video message that was aired during the nonprofit's fall benefit, which was held at the Los Angeles home of Oscar-winning film producer Brian Grazer.
As the program's international thesis advisor, she will be on hand to guide the young adult fellows who are based in New York, Los Angeles, and London. During the 30-month-long program, the students will research the cinematography and culture of a specific country and will each pen a script based on their findings.
And Shahidi, who recently launched a multi-year partnership with Dell XPS laptops, told PEOPLE she is "excited to get going" and take her collaboration with the computer giant's Expand Your YOUniverse campaign to this program and the 30 students based in each location.
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"When I think of the impact of Ghetto Film School, I reflect on my own career. Here I sit before you, not only as an actress but as a producer, as a director, an advocate, an entrepreneur and so much more," she said, in part, in the message that she pre-recorded from the East Coast, where she is a Harvard University undergrad.
"And the reason why I know all of this is possible is precisely because of one thing, which is opportunity. The opportunities that have been given to me by people within my support network who actively believed in me, who invested in me and were ready to see me to my next step and my next evolution."
"And I'm honored to be honored, because it is surreal at the age of 21 to be able to partake in any work that is seen as helping to [make] this industry more equitable," she later said of the program, which was founded by Joe Hall, a former social worker. "I know the stories of our brown and Black filmmakers are stories that are necessary on screen, and not just from an artistic standpoint, but from a point of being cultural disruptors who are guiding us to new futures.
"Because of this I cannot believe — and I do not take lightly — the honor of being international thesis advisor. I'm looking forward to our continued collaboration and cannot wait to be of support in any way possible. Thank you so much for thinking of me… And more than anything I am most excited to continue to disrupt with you."
The former child star spoke to PEOPLE exclusively before the gala about why encouraging diverse talent behind the camera is so important to her.
"I think the Ghetto Film School [is] a great first start at showing the ways in which tech can come together — and when orientated towards communities that are often unnecessarily marginalized in spaces of art — can help solve and answer questions of equity," she said. "That's the biggest thing that I'm really looking forward to."
There will be roughly 30 fellows in each location. And Shahidi — who is also the star and executive producer of her hit show grown-ish — will guide them as they write, shoot, and edit "three different films, short films."
"There is going to be a proper screening and premiere, which is really exciting," she said. "So, being an international thesis advisor basically means that I'm helping in this process, giving my expertise where possible, being of service where possible…"
Shahidi became a household name as Zoey Johnson in the hit ABC sitcom black-ish when she was just 14. In 2018, fans witnessed her on-screen character transition to college in the spinoff series grown-ish.
Asked how she intends to balance acting, producing, studying, and her new role as an international thesis advisor, Shahidi credited her team for helping her make it happen. "Really, it's how I fit in everything else," she said. "It is a proper juggling act that many people on my team really help me manage and maintain."
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