Three years ago, the Burrows family moved to Montana from New York.
“My husband was CEO of Burrows Corp. and we decided to build a ranch and looked in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana,” Marcia Burrows said. “We purchased 320 acres in Hamilton and then we found out my husband had cancer and he has passed. The girls and I decided we would go through with this anyway.”
Marcia Burrows said the plan was to relocate her daughters from the city to experience rural life “where they could have horses and be in tune with nature and enjoy the small town feeling that this beautiful valley offers,” she said.
Both girls are home schooled and told the Ravalli County Commission members earlier this month that they were delighted to make friends and learn in the Media Arts in Public Schools program.
“By accident we found this little jewel of MAPS,” Marcia Burrows said.
“I joined MAPS in hope for a career in digital animating and hopefully I can work for Disney or Pixar to animate films,” said Audrey Burrows, 13.
She said her “amazing teacher in design” works with her one-on-one an hour before each class to help her master Photoshop.
“MAPS offers five different programs and I feel very fortunate to be part of it,” she said. “I look forward to learning more in future semesters.”
Marcia Burrows confirmed the success.
“Audrey has been very interested in animation that you do with technology and I can’t believe this is available right here,” she said. “Truly it is wonderful and she has just grasped onto it. What impressed me is the five rows of state-of-the-art Apple computers. Clare Ann has found phenomenal instructors.”
Ava Burrows, 14, in ninth grade, said she was accepted into the MAPS Entrepreneur class in mid-September.
“MAPS was great for my sister and I because we didn’t have any friends when we moved here,” she said. “It is interesting and is helping us become more social.”
Ava Burrows said through MAPS she learned to create a successful business.
“(MAPS Executive Director) Clare Ann Harff is an extraordinary teacher,” she said. “She answers all my questions with clear answers and always makes sure I understand what she’s teaching me. She gives positive feedback and makes me more confident.”
Marcia Burrows said their family business is known world-wide.
“Ava wants to run the family business and always has,” she said. “I love that she has this opportunity to learn so many things about the company. That’s our story and I’m thrilled and surprised.”
The MAPS Media Institute has five different programs: entrepreneurship, film, design, music and technology. Their professional instructors help students learn about communication and other skills that will prepare them for life.
The MAPS success with students is documented and has a goal of expansion.
“We know we’re bettering student lives, we’re seeing that,” Harff said. “The deliverables are there, both externally as well as through relationships. Now it is time to get it to more students.”
Harff reported MAPS has done a significant infrastructure upgrade this year.
“We have 25 Windows machines, we have over 45 iMacs, we have a recording studio, and a full production lab,” she said. “We have won awards, our students have won awards, and we’re a big part of our community.”
Harff mentioned a few of the productions MAPS has done including Special Olympics Montana, a program about 21st Century Community Learning Centers across Montana, and about a Montana Native American Formula One team that is the first in the nation to go to a national competition.
Sarah Jones, an AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer working with MAPS and developing “MAPS Works: Connecting Community Through Media Arts,” also presented to the commissioners.
She has been leading the charge on MAPS expansion at Salish Kootenai College, Montana GearUP workshops on the Flathead Indian reservation and Blackfeet Indian reservation, and Riverstone School.
“Even though we are stretching statewide we’re still doing local programs at local communities,” Jones said. “I serve because I believe in Montana’s youth and the power of storytelling through the arts, and I share that passion with the people I come in touch with.”