There are a lot of things Alex DeAngelo wants to do after he graduates. Some days he thinks about going into genetic engineering and curing diseases like cancer, other days he considers going into law enforcement and fighting crime. On the days in between, the junior at the Draper campus of Entrada High School dreams about being an entrepreneur and owning his own insurance business. Whatever he does, one thing is for sure: DeAngelo plans to graduate. And he wants other students to do the same.
DeAngelo is one of a group of students at Brighton High School and Entrada High School, Draper campus, who is working on conveying the importance of graduation through film as part of his participation in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab. The students will be submitting their projects to the American Graduate program, an initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that brings awareness to the dropout crisis, for possible publication on American Graduate’s web site and PBS stations across the country. Winning submissions to Canyons’ District Annual Film Festival will also be considered for the Utah American Graduate Theme Prize.
“To have people from a nationwide organization recognize, yeah, your students are doing great work, to me, it’s rewarding to know the work we’re putting into the Film Festival is paying off,” said Katie Blunt, an Education Technology Specialist who helped initiate Canyons’ Film Festival. “It’s not just about, ‘Someday this kid may be a filmmaker.’ For the majority of them, it’s more about knowing how to research and synthesize information and present it in a way that communicates clearly. It’s about working a project and seeing it through to the end and having a final product you feel good about.”
Canyons started accepting feature films, documentaries, animations, newscasts and public service announcement video submissions from students seven years ago, when Canyons’ first Film Festival took place. Students can choose any topic for their submissions, which are due March 24, 2016, but those that explore topics related to education, graduation and overcoming obstacles to obtain an education will be considered by the Utah Education Network’s Utah American Graduate project to receive the Utah American Graduate Theme Prize. The prize will be awarded to one video in each age group.
“Utah American Graduate is working to amplify our community’s discussion about the challenges and success stories around high school graduation,” says Jenn Gibbs, Utah American Graduate Project Manager for the Utah Education Network. “With this prize, we hope to encourage more students and teachers to think about how telling stories can improve understanding and strengthen pathways to graduation and beyond.”
DeAngelo, who has been working all year on his PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab project, “Pathway to Graduation,” is happy to share his story about the challenges and roadblocks he’s faced as he works toward graduating.
“I hope people see it and receive that inspiration to keep going,” DeAngelo says. “A lot of careers outside of high school, especially big-name careers, require at least a high school diploma or a GED, so by having that with you, you’re eligible for so many more career options — even simple jobs like flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s. Employers want to see that you have at least the bare minimum. If (students) keep going, they’ll have those opportunities.”