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Daily Inspiration: Meet Steven Mitchell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Steven Mitchell.

Hi Steven, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
One Sunday, I was driving on the highway to pick up my God-brother for Church. I stepped on my car’s brakes and immediately noticed that the car didn’t stop. Since I was driving a new car, I didn’t think anything was wrong, even though I felt the same feeling you get when you are on a roller coaster. I stepped on the brakes again, and my car still didn’t stop. At that point, I became terrified. I was going about 60MPH and coming up on standstill traffic. Looking to avert disaster, I tried to veer to the shoulder by taking a hard turn to my right. I was in the University of Maryland hospital’s shock trauma unit when I woke up. I was strapped to a gurney, surrounded by doctors. They informed me that I had been in an accident, medic-vacced to a hospital, and possibly sustained a severe neck injury. After receiving news that I had miraculously only suffered a hairline fracture in my hand, I stayed in the hospital for a short time and was released. Upon my release, the doctor informed me that he wanted me to begin testing for cancer, as he noticed an abnormality during my x-rays. I went through a year and a half of cancer screenings, only to receive news that I was cancer free, again miraculously.

After this year-and-a-half to 2 year period, I realized how precious life is. Little did I know that this was the beginning of my journey. I moved to NYC with high hopes of attending college and getting into the design aspects of film and television (animation, video editing, 3-D effects, etc.). Following an internal drive to tell stories, I began interning and working on major movie/television sets (Avengers: The Winter Solider, The Amazing Race, Discovery Channel), learning how to craft creative stories from a myriad of cultures. One of my best film professors always said that my story should be able to reach any person through relative narratives and relatable content. I learned in NYC that dreams really could come true if you are willing to put in constant work.

After 2 years, I began planning my next steps. After enrolling in The Academy of Art in San Francisco, I started working for Apple, and unbeknownst to me, this job would shape my business understanding in the future. Apple’s sale model promoted service over corporate profits, thus freeing employees up to engage with customers as individuals instead of walking price tags. This benefited me greatly, as I could not only learn the ins and outs of the products, but my communication skills grew exponentially, being that I had to engage with international individuals daily. After a couple of months, my manager expressed that he wanted me to teach customers how to use the products in their lives. Being a lifetime Apple user, I was super excited to introduce others to how to use products that significantly impacted and benefited me. I continued with Apple for 2 years, sharing experiences with customers and fellow employees about which I could write a book. I am great friends with many people that are still employed there today!! When the time came for me to transition, the store employees clapped as I walked out as an employee for the final time, a tradition at Apple. I wrote a 15-page farewell letter to encapsulate my experiences, as my time at Apple played a significant role in the “movie” of my life.

During my time at Apple, I started my business, Blue Rain World. The name comes from:
– My Favorite Color
– My Daughter’s Name
– My Target Audience

Blue Rain World is a content creation company focusing on creating experimental narratives and telling stories. As the Creative Artist of my brand, I work to establish an identity outside of my business to build a personal space for myself while building a separate community space for the next generation of creatives. I decided to use the skills I developed at Apple (teaching courses in digital design, business strategizing, and social media marketing) with the skills I had acquired in NYC (film-making, animation, and video editing). To build a community of creatives within my friend group while working as an independent contractor for private clients, I continued to work on different movie/TV sets, gaining new skills and meeting new creatives that shared my sense of a design community. I started attending music/film festivals to gain more insight into how to advance Blue Rain from an artistic standpoint.

While building my content business, I was offered another opportunity. My Pastor and Mentor, an Associate Dean at the time, offered me a teaching position at Coppin State University. My role would be as an instructor in the school’s initial Arts, Sciences, and Biotechnology program. I taught all ages and levels of film-making classes (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) and Digital Design (graphic design, video editing) while curating Windows and Apple-based computer labs for the Baltimore City community. Residents could come from around the city and design digital projects, create resumes, apply for jobs, submit college resumes, and interact with cutting-edge technology (3-D Printer, robotics, STEM), among other program options.

One of the significant highlights of teaching at CSU was the science/technology/outdoors summer camp. Students ages 7 – 14 attended a day program that introduced science/technology programs while allowing students to continue to embellish in the outdoors, both being elements that resonate with me heavily. After the camp concluded, I went on an international trip to South Africa. My role over the next month was the videographer for the trip. The dean of the department I worked for gathered a collection of socialites, teachers, and students to tour the country. While in Johannesburg, I taught Pretoria School for Girls class on film-making and social media integration. This trip was one of the most transitional events I had experienced then. It was the first time I felt like I was in a place where I belonged. I also realized that Blue Rain World had the potential to be a global brand.

A year later, I went on a mission trip to Nigeria. This experience was very different than my trip to South Africa. My role was similar, as I would be working as the trip videographer. While en route to our location, I was awakened by the sounds of loud booms. When I looked up, I saw large clouds of black smoke, and the car was no longer moving. Also, the other passengers had exited the vehicle; bandits attacked our group on the open road. While disregarding my phone and passport (I almost forgot to put my shoes on), a passenger named Desmond returned to get me from the car. He led me into the woods, where I hid for about 20 minutes. When we returned to the car, the highway had abandoned cars, people lying on the ground, and thick black smoke billowing in the air. Civilians were coming out of hiding along with Nigerian police officers. The next day, after safely arriving at our location, I felt really under the weather. After a few hours, the host of our trip found me and said he was “divinely inspired” to search for me because I was severely sick. To this day, I don’t know how he could’ve known that any other way because I hadn’t shared my symptoms with anyone at that time. 10 – 15 minutes later, I was at a Nigerian hospital suffering from an extreme malaria case. I stayed in the hospital for the next 4 days, battling malaria. Against the doctor’s orders, I left on the 4th day. The entirety of the trip was 2 weeks. Although my stay in Nigeria was rough, the people, culture, and environment were excellent.

When I returned to the U.S., I wanted Blue Rain to begin functioning as a change agent. I started a non-profit portion of my business, the #ERASE campaign (ERAdicate Social Expectations). This facet of my business allows me to connect community service with the arts and technology. #ERASE promotes arts and technology to young people who don’t have access to such resources. A key component of #ERASE lies in connecting young people with outdoor activities. I routinely lead expeditions into nature for trail running, camping, and various activities (mountain biking, kayaking, strategic NERF battles). Also, Blue Rain curates community-minded events (clothing drives, backpack giveaways, video game competitions) to maintain a relevant presence in environments that have been traditionally overlooked. This stems from my experiences in Africa and my time teaching at Coppin State University.

I continued working on movie/TV sets while teaching at schools around Maryland. My experiences include roles leading special needs students on how to use digital design as a means of communication; even being able to establish a “Morning Announcements” daily video broadcast featuring the students while working at the Harbour School of Maryland. I presently work for Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School. In my current role, I am teaching technology and digital design for grades 1 -8 while being able to implement #ERASE programs as extracurricular programs for students in grades 6 – 8.

We all face challenges, but would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has not been smooth! I have experienced many challenges that I realized are necessary parts of the journey. For example, when I moved to NYC, my mother told me that I had to do it if I wanted to do it. Her advice was to go through with what you see in your mind to do. My initial days in NYC were challenging regarding 4 – hour classes in school, a part-time job, working in production and having a social life. The struggle of having to choose actions that promoted progression towards my dreams was an everyday decision, and sometimes my mental and emotional health was off balance; albeit a struggle, it was a necessary struggle.

Apple is just as fast-paced and diverse as NYC. However, during this challenge, I was tasked with learning information, retaining it, and then communicating it to a myriad of people. Often, work came home with me after hours. During this time, I partied regularly to cope with a high workload and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in my social life. Since most of my colleagues were peers and in various fields of design, I had plenty of opportunities to party, even when it wasn’t a healthy lifestyle.

Teaching is very different from other experiences. One of my students passed away unexpectedly this past school year on a field trip. I was devastated and burnt out. It was the closest I have ever come to wanting to walk away from the field. After regrouping this summer, my fire for teaching began to return. I love helping students to discover their passions and how they can connect them to their everyday life. But the struggles of knowing their home life or the obstacles that they have to endure daily can affect your psyche. However, the efforts of teaching are worth it for me to be able to impact students positively. Overall, the struggles of my path have been like many other situations where individuals have worked to build their dreams; I have had financial issues. I lived out of my car for 6 years, my social life suffered dramatically, losing relationships, and I constantly questioned if I should be pursuing my dreams while working dead-end part-time jobs to make ends meet. This was all while building Blue Rain! So I acknowledge the struggle, but it has been a beautiful one.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I view myself as an overall artist. I don’t like to be defined by spaces or constrained to a traditional way of thinking. With that said, I’m not rebellious for the sake of being contrary but motivated by creativity’s potential. My “creative expressions” are connected to many resources (spirituality, nature, music, art). I rely on energy from GOD to thrive in my designing and artistic abilities. My narrative storytelling comes from experiences and translations from my real life. Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, I have been a part of the millennial generation that uses technology as the primary communication tool. So digital design (video editing, motion/FX graphics, animation) is at the forefront of how I can tell stories. As I have become more acclimated with designing electronically, I have connected with a more hands-on creative medium: mixed-media art. This allows me an outlet to relax after a major project while still being able to be creative. My experiences have been stepping stones to helping the next generation understand how to find themselves in their ways. I implement my good and bad life experiences in my lessons during each class. I want my students to know that they can have even more success than I have had without going through some of the lows I did.

Can you talk to us about happiness and what makes you happy?
What makes me happy is has evolved. As a teacher, I see students realize learning goals, which is super fulfilling for me. I engage in activities that make me happy (trail running, basketball, freelance designing) while doing my best to stay/be healthy and eliminate negativity. Overall, I strongly believe in GOD and have a solid family structure. Thankfully, over time I have been privileged enough to experience solitude time, and learn myself as a person better to become more confident and well-rounded. I’m so thankful for my relationship with GOD and my family.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Sean Thomas, Stotography

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