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Pushing limits for youth rights

05/04/2010
By:

Kaitlyn Naples

General Assignment Reporter

After viewing the documentary “Pushed” last Tuesday, sophomore education major Amanda Devellis said she was shocked by what she saw.

“Schools should be pushing students in, instead of pushing them out,” she said.

“Pushed” is a documentary created by Youth Rights Media of New Haven that addresses the invisible drop-out issue involving Wilbur Cross High School and James Hillhouse High School of New Haven.

Patra Drury attends New Horizons High School in New Haven and is involved in Youth Rights Media. Drury said Cross and Hillhouse are two of the biggest schools and have the largest drop-out rates.

“The Associated Press described Cross and Hillhouse as ‘drop-out factories,’” Drury said.

The documentary features a group of individuals in the school system as well as a Connecticut state representative, students and a parent. They discuss their individual perspectives as to why students are getting “pushed” into Adult Education programs or alternative high school programs.

Economics, lack of motivation, having children, peer pressure or teachers having low expectations of students were all factors in the drop-out rate.

One student in the film said her teacher said she had a miniscule brain. Other students said administrators told them they would never graduate.

“The students are allowed to believe they are failures,” said Jaime Raimos, a member of Youth Rights Media. “At the beginning of the school year, when the freshmen class comes in, the administrators say to them, ‘Look to your left and look to your right – there is a good chance those individuals may not be here when you graduate.’”

“My son was told he would never make it by teachers,” said the parent interviewed in the film.

Professor Ro Conforti said she was shocked when she watched the documentary.

“When one of the individuals interviewed said he was sorrowful- I understood exactly what he was feeling,” said Conforti, director of the media studies department. “I was just horrified at this complex issue; it was just under my radar.”

Raimos said, “In the year 2009, 526 students had enrolled in Adult Education from the ages of 16 to 18. From these 526, only 118 of these kids graduated.”

Youth Rights Media also intends on showing the documentary at a New Haven city meeting. However, Drury said the city does not remind individuals or make it convenient for residents of New Haven to attend meetings. She also said Board of Education members and the superintendent have been appointed by the mayor.

“I think we need to encourage people to vote and understand the process that in New Haven, if we vote for the mayor, he/she appoints the superintendent who appoints the Board of Education members,” Conforti
said.

Media studies Professor Charlie Dellinger-Pate said she thought it was a great presentation, and Youth Rights Media is doing a great job.

“This should also be looked at from a more systemic problem,” said Dellinger-Pate.

She said they have to look at the issue of drop-outs beyond the administration too.

Raimos said Youth Rights Media has accepted him for who he is.

“They have guided me to a better lifestyle,” he said.

According to Youthrightsmedia.org, “Youth Rights Media is a New Haven-based nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth to know, protect and advance their rights. YRM builds youth power and leadership by engaging young people in video media production and community organizing, equipping them with tools, skills, and strategies for affecting change within themselves and their communities.”

Conforti said she thinks the organization did the right thing with making a documentary.

“I think they just need to continue to fight, it is not going to be easy going to a town meeting wanting to present the video; they will not be welcomed,” Conforti said. “Be active; it takes time and knowledge.”

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