Independent Lens: The Graduates


Updated Fri, Oct 18, 2013 12:01 pm

Monday, October 28 • 10 p.m.
 
The Graduates explores pressing issues in education today through the eyes of six Latino and Latina students from across the United States. More than a survey of contemporary policy debates, the bilingual, two-part film offers first-hand perspectives on key challenges facing Latino high school students and their families, educators, and community leaders. It is the story of the graduates who will make up America’s future.
 
The film follows six teenagers — three girls and three boys — each with their own unique obstacles to overcome. “Girls” features Stephanie, a daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, who despite attending a tough public school on the South Side of Chicago, fights through the distractions and worries about violence to become a good student, outspoken activist, and volunteer; Chastity, a Bronx teen whose family has become homeless but uses writing as a means of escape while keeping her eyes on the prize — college; and Darlene, a Tulsa student who dropped out of school after becoming pregnant and has to play catch-up when she dives back into her studies, all while trying to make a good future for her son.
 
“Boys” gives us three more teenagers who are just as distinct: Juan, a Dominican living in Lawrence, Massachusetts who was bullied as a gay teen until finding his own identity as a performer and writer; Eduardo from San Diego, who is steered away from the gang path when introduced to a special college prep organization that changes his outlook; and Gustavo, who came to America from Mexico to live in the very different environment of Georgia and whose dreams of college are blocked by his undocumented status.
 
A running theme throughout all of the stories in The Graduates is the importance of civic engagement, of students becoming involved in their schools and communities, and—crucially—having a say in their own futures.
 
We hear from these students’ parents, many of whom have had to make great sacrifices in order to see their children graduate, and the film also interweaves engaging interviews with successful Latinos — actors like Wilmer Valderrama, activists, writers like Angie Cruz, politicians such as San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, teachers, and more — looking back on their own experiences as a student in the USA.