Valenti students raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease by showcasing student-made telenovela series

Valenti career events!

As community outreach begins for 20 Jack J. Valenti School of Communications students, the next phase of the student-led soap operas commences. A telenovela series, “Recuerdos de Mi Abuelo,” created and produced by students will be showcased at a screening on Feb. 28.

Back in November, Valenti students showcased their creativity as well as highlighted the means of a good cause when they created their version of telenovelas and set them to premiere. The project that the students worked on covered raising awareness of the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the Hispanic community.

In the process of making the films, the students described the experience as if they were working in a real film studio because, despite the college colleagues, they were in a similar realm. A nickname coined for the sets they worked on was ‘little Hollywood.’

The telenovela, which translated into English means “Memories of a Grandfather,” will highlight how a family is affected by their grandfather’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

On Tuesday, at Harris County Precinct 2 North East Community Center, the soap opera mini-series will have a bilingual screening in both Spanish and English.

The screening will follow with a panel discussion and resources from community partners. The partners for this project include UH Carma Lab, Legacy Health, Vecino Health, The Area Agency on Aging, AARP, The Texas Department of Family Services and The Alzheimer's Association. There are similar events in the works with Precinct 4 and AARP.

At the screening, there will also be opening remarks from Commissioner Adrian Garcia of the Harris County Precinct 2. The panel discussions following the viewing of the episodes will include assistant professor of psychology Dr. Luis D. Medina, adjunct professor for public health  Dr. Mirna Arroyo-Miranda and assistant professor of neurology Dr. Nora Vanegas.

Dr. Medina is the director of CARMA and worked as the project lead on the series. He is the lead researcher at the ECHAR Network working to bring awareness to Latino communities and to connect these communities to resources for early detection and treatment.

“In order to help reduce health disparities, we need to involve these communities in the decision-making process,” Dr. Medina said.

Following the opening remarks, the Spanish screening and panel discussion will commence at 5:15 p.m., then the English screening and discussion panel will begin at 6 p.m.

“The telenovelas are authentic; the Valenti students who wrote and produced them are from the Latino community: they grew up watching ‘novelas’ with their grandparents, and they have watched similar health issues take a toll in their families,” said Valenti director and associate professor of communication Jen Vardeman. “They used their writing and producing skills to bring to life an important issue. A real-world experience like this prepares students to tell the stories of their communities as future film producers, journalists, public relations professionals and advertisers.”

The members of the RDMA project said they have one goal in helping their Latino communities understand and prioritize their brain health. The screening will help raise awareness and bring the students closer to that goal.

For whoever cannot make the screening event, the episodes of “Recuerdos de Mi Abuelo” are available to watch, in Spanish or English here.