Eight helps teens create community action plans to improve high school graduation rates

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Teen ambassadors to be mentored by local practitioners specialized in five key areas noted in bilingual PBS film The Graduates/Los Graduados

PHOENIX – (Nov. 7, 2013) Eight, Arizona PBS in partnership with the City of Phoenix Latino Institute launched a six-month-long community engagement project Oct. 19 aimed at boosting high school graduation rates in the Valley. The initiative will address five key areas detailed in the PBS Independent Lens documentary The Graduates/Los Graduados, which premiered in two parts on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 on Eight, Arizona PBS.  Five areas were identified in the film as presenting the greatest challenges for teens as they pursue their high school education:

  • Teen parenting
  • Gang intervention/street life
  • Bullying
  • Homelessness/Poverty
  • Undocumented status

The project kicked off with a daylong workshop for teens and adults – including teachers and parents – facilitated by community practitioners specialized in each of the areas addressed.
More than 70 teens aged 14-18 participated, arriving from high schools across the Phoenix Metropolitan area.

The event began with an exclusive premiere viewing of the landmark PBS series The Graduates/Los Graduados. The first hour of the two-hour documentary focused on how to maximize the potential of young Latinas and the second covered the factors holding back young Latino men and how to reverse these trends. Participants then broke into groups with community leaders and facilitators to evaluate the respective issues; identify how teens in the movie coped with the challenges and ultimately overcame them on their way to higher education; and discuss practical solutions to these issues in the local Arizona community.

Teens in attendance brainstormed a variety of potential solutions to the challenges facing their fellow high school students in attempting to complete their education, and preparing to take on the challenges of adult life. Event partners Eight, Arizona PBS and the City of Phoenix Latino

Institute selected five student ambassadors from the group of teens at the event, and their community engagement plans will be refined and implemented over the next six months. In the workshop, participants were invited to consider how they would spend a budget of $250 in their outreach plans, and the five student ambassadors will each have access to a stipend to help fund their efforts.

The project timetable is:

  • Nov. 29 – Project Plans Finalized
  • January-March – Project Implementation
  • March 24 – Project Completion Deadline
  • April 2014 – Date TBD – Project Celebration

While students deliberated the issues, Dr. Ariel Rodríguez, an assistant professor at Arizona State University who specializes in recreation programming and younger populations, gave teachers, parents and other adults an hour-long session on their role as a facilitator to the youth engaging in the programs and as a source of support to encourage teens to overcome their life challenges in pursuit of education.

A survey, collected from 43 participants at the event, indicates that 74% of respondents who viewed The Graduates/Los Graduados and joined the breakout sessions reported increased awareness of the issues related to youth dropping out of school . Additionally, 90% indicated the event helped them discover a new solution, and 84% indicated they uncovered barriers to youth success they were not previously aware of.

Eight, Arizona PBS also measured the impact of the event using a 5-point Likert-type scale (1=very unlikely; 5=very likely). Average scores from survey respondents indicated a high likelihood of further action:

  • How likely are you to recommend that friends or family watch the broadcast of The Graduates/Los Graduados : 4.21
  • How likely are you to follow up with an organization or speaker from the day’s event: 4.00
  • The survey also shows 91% of respondents do want to consider trying something or doing something different to impact youth. Responses included focusing on spreading the word and encouraging youth to not give up; engaging in projects such as creating a webpage to address cyber safety, volunteering, or starting a scholarship club; and following up with the project they began to develop as part of the event discussion.

The documentary The Graduates/Los Graduados is available for similar events at post-secondary institutions in Arizona. For more information, contact Eight, Arizona PBS or visit www.azpbs.org/losgraduados.

Ambassadors, along with the students, community members, and educators they worked with will share their projects in short film vignettes captured by community media partners who have assisted in documenting their projects throughout the process. Personal stories about graduation and issues raised in the PBS/ITVS film will also be screened. Each of these were filmed and edited by student interns working collaboratively with Eight, Arizona PBS and the City of Phoenix Latino Institute.

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