Juan Steck

Scholarship Recipient Aims to Tell Stories

VCU Senior Juan Steck learned to embrace uncertainty when he left his home in Peru to move to the United States in order to develop a relationship with his father. The 28-year-old moved to Northern Virginia and eventually befriended a co-worker who had graduated from VCU with a degree in Political Science. Steck made a visit to Richmond and immediately fell in love with the city and the ‘creative vibe’ surrounding VCU. He applied to VCU and is now pursuing a degree in creative advertising through the Robertson School of Media and Culture.

“To me, advertising is a powerful tool to inspire masses through storytelling,” said Steck. “Of course, most advertising doesn’t really do this but I love the fact it can. I figured that if you really want to make a difference in this world, a positive difference, you’ve got to act from the inside.”

Steck also has a passion for filmmaking which was sparked at a young age when his grandfather projected old movies on the wall.

“I feel like we all have something to say and I itch to say it,” said Steck. “Telling your story or someone’s story is like sharing a part of you. It’s that simple and that beautiful.”

His first video project was a collaboration with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society where he developed a promotional documentary about Virginia Farmworkers. He was assigned to interview farm-workers and his experience was one he can never forget.

“I remember working carefully on the questions list so we get this sort of emotional peak that would add to the narrative,” said Steck. “One day, after some planning, there we were, sitting in the middle of a farm, relentlessly attacked by mosquitos. In front of me, this Mexican guy, of about 45 years old, was telling us how much better his life was since he started coming to Virginia to work every half a year, seven days a week, 12 hours a day, under the unforgiving summer sun.”

“We talked about his family and his face changed when he mentioned all the moments he feels like he missed, all his daughter’s birthdays, her graduation. He broke down mid-interview. We chose to stop. His words, they hit me hard. I will never forget that. I grew up in Peru and my dad left to come to the U.S. when I was five-years-old. That moment, that man, that video, helped me understand something about myself. Since that moment, I love my dad even more. I started really admiring him. Stories can do that. That’s the kind of stories I want to tell.”

 

To help with his education Steck applied for and received two scholarships: the Jane Dowrick and Michael Whitlow Scholarship, given to students who participate in community-focused journalism, purposeful internships or extracurricular activities, and the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame Scholarship that recognizes communication professionals with exceptional careers in advertising, journalism, public relations, new media and other media fields.

Steck applied for the scholarships to assist with student loans and purchasing film equipment.

“Problem was, because I worked so much, I really didn’t have time to produce the videos and films,” said Steck. “Now I can devote more time to making content and telling stories. Money doesn’t necessarily make your dreams come true but it sure helps if you are willing to put down the work and effort.”

Steck hopes that one day he can support someone in the same way in the future. “It makes you feel like the hard work is paying off,” he said.

“Four years ago, I would have not guessed I would be here doing what I do,” said Steck. “I’ve really taken my chances in life and I’m still amazed at how it has always worked out. I feel like you’ve got to take risks in order to convince yourself of how much you really want something. You’ve got to dream hard core.”

You can see Steck’s latest films at www.lostvillagemedia.com.

Story by Jess Wetzler.