Community Cinema

The Graduates/Los Graduados


7 pm Tuesday, Oct. 1
Spurlock Museum
600 S. Gregory St., Urbana

Join us at our new location at the Spurlock Museum for a free screening and discussion examining the roots of the Latino dropout crisis and efforts to turn it around.

Click the "Listen" icon to hear an interview about the event with WILL Community Engagement Producer Henry Radcliffe. The interview, conducted by WILL-AM's Jason Croft, aired as a local segment during Here and Now on October 1, 2013.

We'll watch one part of a two-part documentary that looks at the many roots of the Latino dropout crisis through the eyes of six inspiring young students who are part of an ongoing effort to increase graduation rates for a growing Latino population. These student profiles offer a first-hand perspective on the challenges facing many Latino high school students, including over-crowded schools, crime-ridden neighborhoods, teen pregnancy and pressure to contribute to the family finances.

The Graduates/Los Graduados premieres on WILL-TV's Independent Lens on two consecutive Mondays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, at 9 pm. The program will also be presented in Spanish on the Spanish-language channel V-me and online at

For more information, visit The Graduates companion website, which features information about the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film and more.

“The future of this country will be determined by what happens in its schools. It’s not just our democracy, it’s our economy that’s at stake. Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, so in many ways we are going to see a Latino future. We can't allow differences related to language, culture, race, become an obstacle to doing what’s in our national interest.” - Pedro Noguera, urban sociologist, The Graduates

Each episode of The Graduates profiles three students who were in danger of dropping out of high school. The first hour of the series tells the stories of three young women who, through a combination of educational and community resources, as well as supportive families, are able to surmount the obstacles that might have prevented them from completing their education. In the second hour, we meet three young men who have struggled with challenges such as immigration status, brushes with the law, and bullying. With a combination of community and family support, each student is able to find a program that helps him to remain in school, further his education, and get involved in his community.

Episode 1 (October 28) - Girls

This episode looks at the special challenges faced by many Latina students through the stories of three remarkable young women:

Just before her sophomore year of high school, Darlene Bustos became pregnant and began to miss classes and fall behind. With multiple absences, her school district finally asked her to leave. Wanting not only to provide a good example for her son, Alex, but to catch up academically and graduate, Darlene enrolled herself in a program for at-risk students in Tulsa, Okla. At the same time, she enrolled Alex in a Head Start program. Now both she and Alex are working towards graduation day and beyond.

Stephanie Alvarado lives with her family, who emigrated from El Salvador, on the south side of Chicago. Her school is under-resourced and the ever-present metal detectors make it feel more like a prison than a school. But Stephanie joined Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, which aims to decrease the city’s dropout rate through projects like a peer jury, where students discuss and determine solutions for their peers who have committed a minor infraction. Stephanie’s grades improved dramatically and she has begun participating in other activities, including a once-in-a-lifetime student trip to help to build schools in Senegal.

After her family became homeless, Chastity Salas coped as well as she could, but her strong sense of responsibility toward her family threatened to interfere with her education. Luckily, school staff recognized her problems and provided the support she needed to stay in school. Through the services of a Children’s Aid Society student success coordinator, she was able to discuss personal concerns as well as get the guidance she needed to complete college applications. Chastity recently graduated from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the South Bronx and is headed to college in the fall.

Episode 2 (November 4) - Boys

This episode profiles three young Latinos who have overcome enormous challenges, through the help of family, friends and community organizations, en route to completing their education:

Eduardo Corona’s parents moved to San Diego from Mexico to ensure that their children would get a good education. But because both parents worked long hours, Eduardo and his siblings were often unsupervised and soon fell into a life of gangs and violence. Luckily, Eduardo met Chris Yanov, founder of Reality Changers, a college-prep organization that turned his life around. When Eduardo was arrested, and facing six years in prison, Chris stood by him and challenged him to focus on his schoolwork. As a result, Eduardo went on to college. Now he’s a Reality Changers counselor himself, serving as a role model and helping others turn their lives around.

Gustavo Madrigal of Griffin, Ga., started school in the U.S. in fifth grade, after being brought from Mexico by his undocumented parents. They emphasized academics and set high standards, but Gustavo’s undocumented status presented serious barriers when the time came to apply to college. He became a DREAM Act activist and enrolled in Freedom University, which offers courses to prepare undocumented students for college work and helps them to apply and find scholarships.

Juan Bernabe came to Lawrence, Mass., from the Dominican Republic with his mother at age 11. In his freshman year, he came out as gay. Feeling isolated and discouraged, Juan was on the verge of dropping out but the performing arts kept him in school, giving him the means to express himself and gain confidence. It also helped him academically, since students in the program must keep their grades up in order to perform. Juan choreographed a prize-winning foxtrot in the dance competition and found another outlet for his creativity as a writer for the student-run newspaper.