Highline Public Schools unveiled the documentary, “Eleven Paths,” this week to an audience reflecting diverse interests in the district and the education it provides.
Students, their families and friends shared space at the Highline Performing Arts Center with teachers, administrators, and local public officials to reflect on what had come of four-years of introspection through film.
There was more than enough in the documentary alone for all to ponder.
But when the film ended, the lights came up on an on-stage discussion among four of the students who had appeared in the film and its producer/director Rick Stevenson.
The intensity and honesty of the film documenting the high-school years of 11 students from Highline schools rolled on as the four young women looked back on what theyâ€™d learned from the experience of sharing their stories.
Their stories are not to be taken lightly or dismissed as simply an academic exercise.
You hear young people describing entering high school in 2013 with large ambitions and clear plans for achieving them.
Others walk into the same classrooms as freshmen, but with smaller dreams and harboring doubts that even those could be attained.
There is the girl who is pregnant as a freshman and who graduates with a 4-year-old daughter at her side.
A boy at odds with his father over conflicting plans for a military career throughout high school is poised at graduation to enlist in the medics unit of his choice. His dad stands with him in support.
A girl who struggles through her four years of high school without achieving a degree, turns to pursuing a GED and finds those in the schools she left still support her in that effort.
The importance of relationships is a dominant theme through the documentary and in the conversation following it.
Students frequently acknowledged the presence of someone who cared about them as being key to their success. Some said it was the most significant element in the process.
Support for many came from teachers and counselors. For others it came from noneducators in the schools, or from friends and family and others in the community.
Lessons such as that emerged during the formal program and then continued with the questions and comments from those in the audience that concluded this one-hour-plus exploration of perspectives on education.
One suggestion from the students that I found intriguing called for teachers to be direct and honest in telling students what they need to do in order to succeed and then pushing them to do it .
I heard no calls for easier academic routes or smoother paths.
Both the documentary and forum package can be viewed below.
I encourage anyone interested in what our youngsters bring to and take from our schools to look at it and think on it:
Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.