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Digital learning company 2U partners with Draw for Life to offer internships to talented at-risk teens

In 2016, Niven de Bruin, a Grade 11 pupil at Aloe High School in Mitchell’s Plain, took a chance and submitted an application to Draw for Life, an outreach programme offering an introduction to the art of drawing for animation. The opportunity came his way through PASCAP (Partners with After School Care Projects), an NGO affiliated with his school. He never guessed that he was starting a journey that would see him qualifying as a 2D animator at False Bay College and ultimately, being selected for a prestigious internship at listed company 2U (formerly GetSmarter).

Founded in 2016 by Julia Smuts Louw and Daniel Snaddon of Sparks Flew Development Studio, with the support of Animation SA, Triggerfish Foundation, and The Animation School, Draw for Life is an outreach programme aimed at discovering and nurturing artistic talent in areas where the animation industry has no other touch-points. “There’s a shortage of animation talent in our burgeoning local industry, and a staring need for transformation,” said Julia Smuts Louw, who founded the programme in her capacity as Head of Marketing for Animation SA. “With the limited resources we had, we decided to tackle the problem at the level where the intervention can make a big difference to later choices: secondary school.” To begin with, the course ran primarily on good will, with high-caliber industry professionals offering their expertise to teach a small group of talented teens pro bono on Saturday mornings.

Each week’s class involves a fun but intensive 2.5 hour workshop in various foundational skills that animators need to master, with an emphasis on life drawing, Smuts Louw explained. “The great thing about drawing is that you need very little to get started,” she said. “Just pencil, paper, patience and passion.”

Draw for Life students benefit from mentoring that continues long after the course finishes. All students who complete the course are invited to go on to Digital Canvas Academy, an intensive course in digital drawing, offered pro bono by Tumelo Selamolela.  Standouts are then selected for a “hot desk” work-shadowing opportunity at Triggerfish. “Our intention was always to make a long-term commitment to these kids,” says Smuts Louw. “For those who have shown genuine passion and ability, we keep tabs on them and help them find further opportunities.”

In keeping, Draw for Life has helped three of their alumni to date to secure tertiary education funding. Triggerfish Foundation generously provided a scholarship to attend The Animation School for one of the programme’s 2016 alums, Dawood Salie, who is now in second year. Through MICT Seta and UIF, two other 2016 alums received funding to study motion design at False Bay College in Muizenberg. One of these was Niven de Bruin.

“When 2U approached me about the possibility of an internship for one of our alums, I out forward a couple of people, but I knew Niven would be a good candidate,” said Smuts Louw. “He has the talent and he has the hustle. Seeing one of our kids all the way from school into the animation workforce was a goal I had from the beginning. To see Niven at such a prestigious company is a dream fulfilled. We hope he’s the first of many.”

“I can’t explain the amount of gratitude I have for this opportunity,” said De Bruin, who is now working with 2U’s motion design team, bringing innovative e-learning courses to their global user-base from many of the best universities in the world. 2U’s Kerry o’Conner, who heads up the department, says that they are excited to start the relationship with Draw for Life.

In terms of resources, Draw for Life received another big boost this year thanks to funding from Animation SA through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). “The potential for the programme is massive,” said Nick Cloete, Chair of Animation SA. “We look forward to seeing Draw for Life go from strength to strength thanks to the relationship with GIZ, and blazing a trail for a whole lot more outreach activity under the Animation SA banner.”

For more info, please contact Julia Smuts Louw at jslouw@gmail.com

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