For as long as she can remember, Emmy Beck-Aden wanted a video camera in her hands.
She started out at age 8 with the family’s camcorder. It’s the one her dad used when the family went to Disney World. He’d train his lens at his four daughters and say, “Look at the camera!”
That’s how it started.
With the help of YouTube videos, Beck-Aden trained herself. She went on to win awards for her short documentaries as she used her video camera as a tool of social justice and community awareness. Her work sparked conversations and spurred people to act.
No small feat.
Beck-Aden, an HPU sophomore majoring in media production and entrepreneurship, is one of two Extraordinary Leaders for the month of September. She is the first sophomore in at least five years to receive one of the university’s most coveted student leadership awards.
To understand how that happened, head to Athens, Ohio.
For Beck-Aden, that is home.
Beyond A ‘Cloverbud’
Athens, Ohio – population, 23,832 – is indicative of small-town America. It’s a quaint city tucked beside the Hocking River, home to Ohio University, better known as “OU.”
OU is like Beck-Aden’s backyard. Her parents, Roger Aden and Christie Beck, teach communication studies there, and they instilled in their daughter the importance of getting involved in her community.
Take 4-H, the youth development organization. Beck-Aden started out in the Lucky Fours 4-H Club at age 5. She was known as a “Cloverbud,” and she and her fellow members met at her house and her mom was Lucky Fours primary adviser.
Her interest soon moved beyond her hometown.
She served on Ohio’s 4-H leadership council as communication chair, secretary and finally its president. She also used her family’s camcorder to film a documentary on the history of 4-H in her hometown. She showed it at the National 4-H Film Festival, won an award, and two years later, she became a member of the festival’s design team.
She received three more awards for her documentaries, including one about the difficulty of finding healthy food in Athens County. She called it “Harvesting Hope” and took it to the American Youth Film Festival in Atlanta.
Through images and 10 interviews, her documentary unveiled the stark truth in her corner of Appalachian Ohio: One out of every four people live in poverty.
“We had no idea that this issue extended to this part of Appalachian,” one of the film organizers told her.
That’s the passion Beck-Aden brought to HPU.
The Importance of First Impressions
As soon as she walked onto HPU’s campus, Beck-Aden noticed the attention to detail.
“What caught my attention was how purposeful it was,” she says today. “It was even down to the classical music on the promenade. That caught my ear. Not a lot of universities pay attention to the small details, but HPU does.
“It shows the university really cares. You’re not just a number; you’re an individual.”
HPU reminded Beck-Aden of what attracted her to 4-H. Both taught life skills and emphasized hands-on learning and leadership. HPU also offered Beck-Aden a chance to expand on her passion for video production.
She is a Media Fellow, a member of the Honors Scholar program and a Presidential Scholar.
The professor who interviewed her for the scholarship was none other than Dr. Kristina Bell, the director of the Media Fellows program. For the interview, Beck-Aden came in looking business sharp with her portfolio under her arm.
“She blew me away,” says Bell, an assistant professor of communication. “After answering all my questions, she said, ‘Oh, let me show you my portfolio.’’’
That, according to Bell, is rare.
“Emmy, she’s exceptional,” Bell says.
HPU: ‘Something for Everyone’
As she did in her hometown, Beck-Aden got involved at HPU. She’s a Student Justice and serves on the Media Fellows Board as its Professional Events Co-Chair.
Last year, she campaigned to be one of three freshman representatives on the Student Government Association. She knocked on at least 100 residence-hall doors and handed out fliers with the slogan, “Experience You Can Count On!”
Last spring, she helped coordinate a formal for her fellow freshmen. It was named SGA Event of the Year.
Beck-Aden, a former student council president in high school, is far from done with SGA. This year, she is a sophomore class representative.
She also works at Blessing Hall as a resident assistant, better known as an RA. She’s on the second floor. Last spring, she was an RA on the fifth floor. On both floors, she works with nearly 50 first-year students. Last spring, she was named RA Rookie of the Year.
“One of the great things about High Point is that there are so many ways to get involved,” she says. “Even if you’re a freshman, it’s really easy. There’s something for everyone here, and I believe our campus community is stronger if everyone gets involved with something their passionate about.”
Beck-Aden is passionate. In her room at Blessing, she has on her wall near her bed this quote from Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
That quote, she says, speaks to her. For Bell, that tells her much.
“She’s a go-getter,” Bell says. “I’ve seen her tackle whatever is thrown at her. I wasn’t that professional at 20.”
“She can do whatever she wants,” Bell says. “She’s dedicated.”
Why She Came
Beck-Aden works with SportsLink, the student-run organization that works directly with HPU Athletics to broadcast HPU home games. And like everything she does, she has worked at it.
She has gotten help from professors like Joe Michaels, HPU’s Broadcaster in Residence. The former longtime director of “TODAY” teaches TV production at HPU, and he has stayed after class to help Beck-Aden improve her skills in using multiple cameras during a show.
When she started working with SportsLink, she shadowed juniors Dylan Linn and Thomas Burfield, and they showed her the ins and outs of production.
She now knows she’s ready.
“I think High Point University fosters this sense of community, mentorship and professional development,” she says. “I do feel blessed. In my hometown, I found many opportunities. Yet, here at High Point, I’ve been able to expand on those opportunities because of the strong program I found here. That is exactly why I came to North Carolina. I wanted to embrace Walt Disney’s words – “If you can dream it, you can do it!’
“So, when I go home, people ask me, ‘Why did you go there?’ and I tell them, ‘It has everything I’m looking for.’”