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Best of the Week 2018-2019: Excellence in College Prep


This week, the St. Ed's Film Society and Diversity Club came together to co-host a screening of the first episode of America to Me, a new documentary series that chronicles racial injustices through the lens of high school students growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. Directed by Steve James, the creator of the early 90's documentary, Hoop Dreams, America to Me follows students from Oak Park and River Forest High School throughout their everyday routines and captures the inequalities they face on a daily basis on camera.

"Mr. Knight and I thought this was a great opportunity to bring two different clubs together around a contemporary work by a filmmaker I personally admire. It's true that many of our students sometimes only encounter the same group of Edsmen in the classroom or at practice, so it was nice to see two groups of students who don't usually work together mingle and talk about important issues," says film teacher and Film Society moderator Ms. Lydia Munnell. "I find that students, and even adults, are sometimes hesitant to discuss race. They don't want to be wrong or they don't want to offend. I knew the Diversity Club was a place where students felt comfortable to talk about their own experiences, so when Mr. Knight and I discussed screening options, it seemed that America to Me afforded a chance for students to spark conversation based on both the stories in the documentary and from their own lives."

Students from the Film Society and Diversity Club not only watched the first episode of America to Me together, but also shared their observations and impressions of the documentary and their personal stories through formative, communal discussion. "The biggest takeaway from this experience came up in our discussion afterwards. Students recognized the importance of understanding different perspectives and acknowledged just how dangerous it is to only know one side to a story or to only have one perspective. This reasoning led students to conclude that there is a need for all people to come together and talk about important issues that sometimes divide us. If we are to create change, we must be willing to take the time to learn from one another and hear each other's stories," says Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Mr. James Knight.

"As our nation retreats back into the 'tribalism' we hear so much about in the media, it is vital that we continue to offer opportunities for different groups of students to walk in each other's shoes. This documentary spurred dialogue that pushes forward the notion that 'it is hard to hate once you know each other's stories.' I hope we can offer more chances to experience each other's stories," says Principal James Reed.

"When you think about it, it's so easy to see the connections between film and issues of diversity, inclusion and representation. I want our student filmmakers to see themselves, their fellow Edsmen and the people around them represented through the films they watch. Film as a medium is global and diverse, and our study of it at St. Ed's should be too," says Ms. Munnell. Both the Film Society and the Diversity Club plan to continue watching the rest of the America to Me series together and hope to plan more joint group experiences and collaborate with other organizations in the future.

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