Matt Gannon (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Matt Gannon (CS photo by Jaclyn Lippelmann)

For Matt Gannon, a graduating senior at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, filmmaking is a way to expose injustice, tell compelling stories, and sometimes to make people laugh as well.

Last year, Gannon made a documentary titled Invisible that portrayed the plight of the homeless in society, including both personal interviews with people experiencing it and facts about the issue interspersed throughout. He entered the film into CSPAN’s “StudentCam” competition, and won first prize and fan favorite in the competition.

“The humanity of the homeless is something I wanted to share with people,” said Gannon, which is something he has learned about through his volunteering at the McKenna Center, a soup kitchen located in the basement of Gonzaga’s St. Aloysius Church.

This year, he continued to produce videos about other social justice issues. He made a video titled “I Still Have a Dream” about the ongoing problem of racism as a part of his involvement with the ComeUnity Coalition, which is a group of high school students and teachers in the Archdiocese of Washington who advocate for social justice. He was also instrumental in leading the school’s walkout against gun violence on March 14, which he filmed while leading the students marching to the U.S. Capitol.

As the student body president of Gonzaga, “I felt it was kind of my duty to make sure the students had the opportunity to voice their opinions,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it was something that happened at Gonzaga in full force.”

While the National School Walkout was something that was taking place all over the country and schools knew about it beforehand, student leaders and faculty at Gonzaga decided it would be more meaningful if the day remained entirely student led, without the school’s involvement in the planning, even though that meant that they could be punished for skipping school.

By doing so, students who had never participated in civil disobedience before could see that “protesting means there is a cost involved, even if it is a small one,” said Gannon.

Gannon expected about 40 students to participate in the walkout, but in the end they had about 400 do so.

The walkout began with a moment of silence on Gonzaga’s Buchanan Field, and the students then marched to the Capitol, where they knelt on the terrace and read the names of the students and teachers who had been killed during the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and said a “Glory Be” after each name.

When the students returned to school, they were ushered into St. Aloysius Church, where the faculty told them that their punishment for skipping classes would be going to JUG (Justice Under God), which is Gonzaga’s after school detention. All of the students showed up, and it ended up being a forum for students to discuss why they were compelled to walk out of school.

“The kids in Parkland are us, as much as we try to hide from it and say it could not happen here,” said Gannon.

Gannon recalled hearing the reports about a student holding the door for his classmates and said that he knew there were some of his peers who would have done the same thing. Likewise, he said he knew the faculty members here would lay down their lives for their students like those in Parkland had.

“We had to stand up because they couldn’t anymore,” said Gannon. “Especially with the Jesuit mantra, ‘Men for Others,’ …it was something I felt we had to do.”

Gannon has also worked on films in some different genres, such as a narrative film about a teenager that takes place the day after his dad dies, parodies of the TV show The Office set at Gonzaga, one-minute short films about his family, and some videos for Gonzaga as well.

In addition to his filmmaking, Gannon played Lumiere in Gonzaga’s Beauty and the Beast play this year, was an editor-in-chief for the school’s newspaper, The Aquilian, and is a part of the school’s Peace Club, which this year hosted a letter writing campaign about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Next year, Gannon plans to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and hopes to study film along with maybe English or political science. As he goes forward, Gannon hopes to get involved in the campus ministry there and wants to continue producing documentaries about injustices he sees in the world. As he does so, he said Gonzaga’s motto “Men for Others” will “definitely be an integral part of my identity.”