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Madison Metropolitan School District

Senior Spotlight: Student Filmmaker Connects With Community for Social Change

Aidan Dresang started tinkering with his family’s camcorder as a preteen, editing short, “nonsensical” videos of his friends on the now-defunct Windows Movie Maker. Now a graduating senior at Memorial High School, Dresang has developed his skills to a professional level, creating videos both in and out of school with a focus on social issues.

“While I never stopped making fun videos with friends, making informative videos in middle school is what helped me realize I can connect my interests in helping my community and making videos,” Dresang said.

At Memorial, Dresang is involved in Memorial’s weekly news program, Spartan News, which is written, produced, and edited by students with guidance from photo and video teacher Joe Frontier. 

“One of my favorite parts about the club is getting to hang out with a number of fun students who are also interested in filmmaking,” Dresang said. “By allowing me to meet students from a number of clubs across Memorial, Spartan News has offered me a unique perspective of the school that I am very grateful for.”

Creating videos has also granted him a creative and connective outlet, which was especially fulfilling during the pandemic when social distancing felt constraining. During virtual learning, Dresang made videos centered on the mental health effects of the pandemic on his family and himself.

Dresang’s videography projects continually connect him with the greater Madison community through work with local organizations and campaigns. To date, he’s collaborated with: Youth Climate Action Team, Nada Elmikashfi’s Wisconsin State Senate campaign, Max Prestigiacomo’s City Council campaign, State Rep. Francesca Hong, and the local organizations Bleed Shamelessly and In Pursuit of Sunshine.

“Making videos with these groups has not only helped me grow as a learning videographer, but as someone who hopes to help make a difference,” Dresang said.

This fall, Dresang will attend the University of Texas at Austin, where he plans to major in history and the Digital Arts & Media Bridging Disciplines Program–combining his interests in documentary filmmaking, social justice issues, and journalism. Ultimately, he wants to become a high school history teacher who incorporates his own documentary films into class curriculum.

“I believe that many students, including myself, can find it hard to understand how history affects the communities we live in today,” Dresang said. 

This summer, he plans to make short documentaries that highlight community members, their stories, and how history has shaped who they and their community are today. 

“In this way, I hope that students can develop a better understanding of how their lives are intertwined with the history subjects we are learning in class.”