In the News

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - Thursday, a group of kids in Cedar Rapids got together to watch a movie.

They saw a documentary about 4 students, from lower income areas, struggling to make it to college. But the audience today was a little younger than your typical "college-ready" students.

When you think about college preparation, you normally don’t think "middle school," but that's what this group of students from McKinley, Roosevelt and Wilson are doing.

Thursday morning, the group watched a documentary about 4 students from lower income areas, and their struggle to make it to college, despite obstacles in their way.

Jaye Fenderson, who directed the film with her husband, Adam, says, “I think that the reason that we show the film to middle schoolers is, the earlier we can get the message to students that college is possible.”

The award-winning film's co-director was there, to explain the reason she believes that showing harsh realities, will help kids in lower income areas, break the cycle.

“As a journalist, you make that decision, of whether to be a fly on the wall or intervene, and we definitely took the journalistic perspective where we wanted to tell an honest story, and it's tough, because at the end of the day, each of these students is making their own choices. They may not have the resources,” she says.

And many of the 500 kids from the 3 schools don't - the schools all have more than half of their students on free or reduced lunch programs, but assistance is in their future.

The schools have received a federal grant, called GEAR UP, which will help these students--when they're ready--pay for the ACT, college applications, and provide academic help to get them on track to get to college.

“And get them to think, ‘What is it I want to do?' adds Tara Brokovich, the GEAR UP coordinator, and a special education teacher at Wilson.

“Growing up in poverty myself, your initial thought is, I just want to make a lot of money, and my message to students is, it's not about making a lot of money, it's about doing what you love, and being happy with what you're doing,” she says.

“The message is that, we need more mentors, we need more advocates in the community, we need more students to ask those questions and help students achieve their best selves,” Fenderson says.

Source: KGAN TV