Nashville Public Television’s “Student Voices” videos are brief, but powerful because they feature high schoolers sharing their challenges and triumphs in their own words. The series of 20 short videos are being produced by NPT associate producer Shawn Anfinson as part of the American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen initiative supporting community-based solutions to the dropout crisis.
Anfinson meets one-on-one with perspective students – identified with the help of school administrators and teachers – to discuss his goals for the videos, then has follow-up meetings to film the students. “It’s a mistake to lump every at-risk kid into the same category,” Anfinson said. The problems they face are as individual as they are.
In one video, a teen talks about juggling a 30-hour workweek, school and fatherhood. In another, a teen’s career choice is an inspired counter to having growing up feeling judged because of her learning disability. Many of the “Student Voices” kids have worked through the obstacles they’ve faced and are experiencing a turnaround in their lives and grades; others are still looking for solutions – and that’s also an important message to send.
“They’re sharing their most private and personal stories,” Anfinson said, and in doing so, they’re helping people inform their decisions about kids in similar circumstances.
“At the end of the day, graduating from high school is an intentional act” for these students, Anfinson said. “They have to want it; they really have to intend to graduate.”