Interacting with thoughtful talented filmmakers and organizers is the best part of my job, and that job is made all the better when I get the chance to work with these folks on multiple projects. That’s where I find myself at this moment, engaged in another opportunity to support the work of filmmaker Dan Habib. My colleague, Molly Murphy, and I facilitated a strategy summit for Dan’s first film, Including Samuel, that resulted in the I Am Norm campaign and other collaborations between the film and educators, disability rights organizations, inclusion advocates and others.

In just a couple of months, we’ll be holding a summit for Dan’s newest project, here’s more about it:

Who Cares About Kelsey? documents the lives of students with emotional/behavioral challenges, and shows innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed – while improving the overall school culture and climate.

When Kelsey Carroll entered high school, she was a more likely candidate for the juvenile justice system than graduation. Diagnosed with ADHD and carrying the emotional scars of homelessness and substance abuse, as well as the actual scars of repeated self-mutilation, Kelsey was volatile, disruptive and, by her own admission, “not a nice person” to be around. During Kelsey’s sophomore year, a new school leadership team implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a youth-directed planning process called RENEW and other reforms to improve the school’s culture and reduce the dropout rate. This school-wide overhaul gave Kelsey a chance at a different outcome. Who Cares About Kelsey? follows Kelsey through the ups and downs of her senior year. Who Cares About Kelsey? will make viewers reconsider the “problem kids” in their own high schools and spark new conversations about an education revolution that’s about empowering–not overpowering–our most emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth.

In addition to the feature-length documentary Who Cares About Kelsey?, Dan’s team has created nine short documentaries that illustrate a wide range of educational issues and evidence-based practices, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Universal Design for Learning, Cultural Responsiveness and more.

With some early campaign planning support from Working Films and maintenance of excellent relationships with leaders in the fields, Dan and his team at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Institute on Disability have already been putting the film to work. Just a quick glance at their Facebook page will give you a sense of the many venues at which the film has screened followed by powerful conversations with Dan, inclusion advocates, and the film’s main character Kelsey Carroll. We’re excited to build on to the work that they’ve already been doing with the film and to hear how this film will be used in the future from the organizations that are leading the charge on these issues.

We’ll have another update after the summit, but in the meantime please check out the Who Cares About Kelsey? Project on facebook or purchase an educational package (including the full length film, mini-films and education materials) from the UNH website. You can also make sure that their engagement work continues to happen by supporting their Kickstarter campaign.

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