is EMMY nominated!
"For anyone interested in economic diversity in higher education — as I am — I recommend a new film that follows three high school students in Brooklyn as they try to navigate the application process. It’s called “Personal Statement” and ... (it) describes the hurdles that lower-income students face, from the lack of a single college counselor at many high schools to the byzantine misery of financial
aid forms...The film feels particularly timely in the wake of the college admissions scandal."
"That some rich families bribe their children’s way into college is the least of our problems. We’re more concerned by the college guidance gap and the maze of applying for financial aid. It shouldn’t be that difficult, fiscally or strategically, to get college advice and to fill out the Fafsa. Higher education’s admissions system should be designed to support our success, not to suppress it." - Enoch Jemmott
Personal Statement has received 3 Telly awards!
The PBS Broadcast Series that featured PERSONAL STATEMENT, America ReFramed,
won the Gold Telly for Best Documentary Series
PERSONAL STATEMENT won a Silver Telly for Individual Documentary
PERSONAL STATEMENT won a Bronze Telly for Social Impact
PERSONAL STATEMENT selected for 2020 American Library Association (ALA) Notable Videos for Adults: a list of 15 outstanding films that make a significant contribution to the world of video.
to participate in #WeBelongInCollege"
We are thrilled that the
has joined the
"Countless ideas about getting students to and through college have come from policymakers, lawmakers and any number of advocacy groups. But what if a solution comes from students themselves?
A new campaign launching this week will urge students to share stories of how they’ve struggled to get into college – and to overcome obstacles once they do.
The “WeBelonginCollege” campaign stems from the film PERSONAL STATEMENT"
"Looking into K-12, PERSONAL STATEMENT highlights the lives of three high school seniors in Brooklyn, New York, who, while trying to graduate themselves, also serve as college counselors for their classmates.
The trio’s focus is on helping others overcome the hurdles that can prevent low-income students from attending college."
PERSONAL STATEMENT and the peer to peer college access model it profiles are featured in this article, which explains that,"reporting on solutions is just good journalism....'We as a culture need to understand success stories in our institutions just as critically as we understand those institutions’ failures.'”
The filmmakers follow a Frederick Wiseman style of documenting their subjects: no narration, no interviews, and no exposition...The story the filmmakers are telling really is the students’ own story, in their own words and actions. The viewer comes to feel deeply for these three students as they experience joys and sorrows around their pursuit of college. The camera, while never intrusive, also never shies away from uncomfortable conversations, tears, or happiness...it’s a captivating, intimate study of its subjects."
WHY WE HAD TO BE OUR OWN COLLEGE COUNSELORS
AND HOW CONGRESS CAN HELP
by Christine Rodriguez
"There’s been so much attention lately about the college admission scandal...But there’s a far bigger scandal that our leaders have long ignored: many high school seniors who deserve to attend college don’t have the advice and support that they need to get there...Students who are trying to become the first in their family to attend college often don’t have anyone at home who can help. So it is especially critical for them to get the help they need at school...
Only 9 percent of people in the lowest income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by the time they turn 24, compared to 77 percent from the highest income quartile. We want to believe the American Dream is attainable for all, but how can we when what we really have is a birth lottery? We need to distribute resources more equitably, including allocating more funding for public education, targeting resources to the students who need them most, and making college affordable. The only way to truly have social mobility is to make college equally accessible to everyone."
Enoch Jemmott and Juliane Dressner were on the SwampED podcast with Reach Higher.
Reach Higher is Michelle Obama's initiative to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school.
Here's an excerpt:
Eric Waldo: "Watching this documentary for me was really important because... when I was in the federal government...
(I was) saying, "Oh, the FAFSA's easy, it only takes 20 minutes, don't worry, just do it." And watching your (Enoch's) process, watching what you had to go through, made me feel like I'd been lying to young people or at the very least not being honest with myself or my peers in government about how hard we are making it for young people to get access to the funds they need to get the education they want."
“'Personal Statement' tells the stories of three remarkable Brooklyn high school seniors who have to find their own way through the college application process and the struggles they face in school and at home."
"The challenging admissions journeys these three public high school seniors from Brooklyn face provide a dramatic story line for “Personal Statement,”
a stunning new documentary...
The film’s campaign for more guidance counselors correctly hits a nerve. A typical college counselor in a U.S. public high school is responsible for 482 students...the need for better resources and support for students pursuing higher education at every step of the way should be atop all of our agendas."
The Journal of College Admissions:
Making a Statement - New Documentary Highlights College Counseling Gap
Woodstock Film Festival Jury Citation -
Best Documentary Feature Honorable Mention
“We were so moved by this portrayal of these inspiring young high school students who work to mentor other at-risk high school students while simultaneously struggling to navigate the tangle of academic achievement, paperwork and bureaucracy necessary for them to reach for the stars themselves. The characters were so fresh and accessible. The filmmakers clearly established incredible trust with their subjects and their families. It was clear that we were witnessing the coming of age of our next generation of leaders and advocates, all emerging from extremely challenging and at times precarious circumstances.”
"While more than 90 percent of high school students want to go to college, many don’t achieve higher education. The National Center for Education Statistics found that only 14 percent of students of low socioeconomic status obtain their bachelor’s degree within eight years of graduating high school.
'What we find is the college counseling gap is a major cause of this achievement gap, and yet, many people are unaware of it,' Dressner said. 'When they’re made aware of it, from seeing the film and then hearing about these statistics and the situation, they’re outraged, and they want to do something about it.'”
"A special showing of the film, called Personal Statement, is planned for Monday, the observance of Martin Luther King’s Birthday. It will be followed by a forum on the need for more counselors in Philadelphia schools. Panelists will include City Council member Helen Gym, two of the young people profiled in the film, Philadelphia school counselor Tatiana Olmedo, and a youth organizer from Philadelphia Student Union.
The event will kick off a public awareness campaign to convince policymakers that the Philadelphia District needs more school counselors and that resources must be provided to hire them."
A call to action
"After the screening on MLK Day — which was co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Student Union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools — and the associated panel discussion, which included one of the film’s subjects, Marcus encouraged supporters to:
Sign the Change.org petition, which urges the State of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia to provide additional funding for the School District of Philadelphia and school districts throughout the state to allocate more school counselors to public schools
Speak at school board meetings to reiterate the importance of lowering the counselor to student ratio
She also asked everyone to write a postcard to the governor with a suggested message reading: “We need an additional $510 million a year to fund our schools. Resources like school counselors are essential and a basic need, not an extra.”
The postcards will be hand-delivered to Governor Tom Wolf..."
"The movie, Personal Statement, taps into simmering tension about unequal access to college and the lack of guidance for low-income students... More than one-fifth of public high schools in the nation don’t have a guidance counselor, according to a report issued in 2016 by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. This statistic raises the question: how is higher education equally accessible when kids in high-poverty neighborhoods lack college guidance?"
"If we want to make America great again, let’s begin by making college accessible to everyone.
We need more college counselors in public schools to close the college guidance gap." - Karoline Jimenez
"Follow Karoline, Enoch, and Christine, three college-bound Brooklyn-based high school seniors who want to bring all of their classmates along with them. Recognizing the lack of college guidance support in their classrooms (much the same across the country), they become the change they seek, counseling their peers through the college entrance process. An inspiring look at social justice in action, Personal Statement reminds us of the immense change we are all capable of creating around us." - Milwaukee Independent
Doc Talk: Kidnapping, counseling, believing, Mooch-ifying
The Boston Globe
October 18, 2018
"The filmmakers expose the disparity in opportunities in our educational system as they share their subjects’ lives over the course of their senior year and beyond. Despite dramatic ups and downs, the three demonstrate determination and resourcefulness in pursuing their goals and inspire hope that the future is in good hands."
NEA Podcast: Director and cast of the documentary Personal Statement
National Endowment for the Arts
September 11, 2018
"There is a profound lack of college counselors in public schools which often leaves students on their own to negotiate applications, financial forms, and personal statements...Karoline, Christine and Enoch, although they’re facing challenges of their own and struggle with their own college possibilities, embrace their roles as peer counselors and pour their hearts and souls into helping their classmates succeed."
There is 1 guidance counselor for every 491 US students. This film wants to change that.
Burlington Free Press
August 24, 2018
"A documentary that seeks to spark conversations about the inaccessible nature of the college application process headlined Thursday's opening night of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival. "Personal Statement" shows the real-life impact of the lack of guidance counselors in high schools around the country....The authenticity of the narrative derives from the filmmaking itself, not detached experts sharing statistics."
AFI Docs Delivers Stories You Cannot Make Up
June 20, 2018
"The opening night film, the inspiring “Personal Statement,” by directors Juliane Dressner and co-director Edwin Martinez, captured the need for more guidance counselors in today’s public schools and how low-income high school students aiming for colleges can fill the gap by helping their fellow students."
At this year’s AFI Docs, torches and pitchforks give way to consensus and reconciliation
The Washington Post
June 14, 2018
"The tenor of this year’s edition of AFI Docs, which got underway on Wednesday with the world premiere of 'Personal Statement,' about a group of New York teenagers fighting to apply and get into college, feels distinctly of its time, in many ways surprisingly so. While some observers might have expected the documentary filmmaking community — often accused of being insular, self-confirming and left-leaning — to go into torches-and-pitchforks mode with hard-hitting investigations or polemical tracts, a constant thread in this year’s program has to do with transcendence, mutual understanding and breaking down partisan divisions."
- Ann Hornaday, Chief Film Critic, The Washington Post
Trumpeting Decency in Trump’s Town: AFI Docs Showcases Big Issues
CMSI: Center for Media and Social Impact
June 26, 2018
"Peer training is so important because high schools in poorer areas have almost no counselling time available for this work—which can make all the difference in opening doors to opportunity. The high schoolers are charismatic and charming, and the program works. The smart storytelling makes you a cheerleader for them all.
The Feedback: Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez' 'Personal Statement'
June 21, 2018
"In this edition of "The Feedback," we spotlight Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez' Personal Statement.
We caught up with director Dressner and co-director Martinez via email following the film's world premiere as the opening-night film at AFI Docs."
Film on College Access Makes a 'Statement' at AFI DOCS Festival
June 14, 2018
There is joy and heartbreak when the colleges respond to the three subjects' college applications. Such moments always provide for drama in film, but "Personal Statement" is about much more than those responses.
Youth Leaders are Changing the Conversation on College Access
Schott Foundation for Public Education
June 28, 2016
A rough cut of PERSONAL STATEMENT (then titled STEPPING UP) was screened at Philanthropy New York (PNY) on June 17th, 2016, followed by a panel discussion with students Karoline Jimenez and Enoch Jemmott and filmmaker Julie Dressner.
“We, in general, want to believe that education is the great equalizer and there is social mobility in our country… What we find and see in this film is that that is not always the case.”