TOWSON, MD. – What do Halstead Academy students Noah Ibrahim, Justin Prudent, and Keon Ransom have in common with President Barack Obama? All four of them will be featured in the upcoming documentary “Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper,” which explores a handful of programs aligned with President Obama’s initiative to improve the life outcomes of boys and young men of color.
For four full days, a documentary film crew went into homes and classrooms to explore the success of Halstead Academy in raising the academic achievement of its black male students. Excerpts from this footage are featured in “Rise,” which will have a red carpet premiere on Thursday, June 18, as part of the American Film Institute’s documentary film festival at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The film will be simulcast on Discovery Channel and OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) on Sunday, June 21, at 7 p.m.
“Superintendent (S. Dallas) Dance recommended to the Discovery Channel that our school be included in the film,” said Jennifer Mullenax, principal of Halstead Academy and recently selected Baltimore County Public Schools’ Principal of the Year. “He told them that if they wanted to see an example of a school that has closed the achievement gap between black and white students, they should look at us.”
Currently, African American students at Halstead outperform their peers at comparable schools in both mathematics and reading.
Mullenax credits the school’s success to “the sense of community that we have. You know the old African proverb about it taking a village to raise a child? We all believe that. This school is truly the center of this community, and the documentary captures that. We all have the same goal of our kids meeting with success. Families trust us, and we have outstanding teachers who will do whatever it takes to make sure that our kids succeed. We have made a significant turnaround in five years. The data shows that, and you can feel it.”
Filming at Halstead Academy included camera crews following Justin and Keon from their homes and throughout an entire school day as well as interviewing student Noah, Mullenax, and some teachers.
The film crew also was present for a meeting of Halstead Future Heroes, a group initiated by Mullenax and Grade 4 teacher Marcus Wimberly and coordinated by Wimberly. The afterschool activity engages Grade 5 boys who possess leadership skills, teaches them what it means to be a leader, and introduces them to male professionals from throughout the community.
Mullenax describes the filming experience as “pretty awesome.”
“The crew became entrenched in the school, but it was also unobtrusive,” Mullenax said. “The filming really had a strong impact on the students. They were very impressed that the videographers had worked on projects like the film ‘Selma’ and music videos for Jay-Z and Beyonce. One student, Joseph Kubisehin, a good friend of Justin’s, has a new passion for videography. He asked me the other day to buy a small handheld camera because he wants to film an upcoming field trip to Philadelphia.”
The “Rise” experience hasn’t ended for the three Halstead Academy students featured in the documentary. They will attend the June 18 red carpet premiere along with Dance and Mullenax.
In addition to Halstead Academy, “Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper” showcases Urban Prep Academies, based in Chicago; the Yuba/Sutter program of YouthBuild in rural northern CA; and Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (B.A.M.), also in Chicago.
“Rise” is directed by Dawn Porter, the filmmaker behind the acclaimed documentary “Gideon’s Army.”
Other mentors and students featured in the film include Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools Dr. S. Dallas Dance; B.A.M. supervisor Anthony Bharataji Joplin; 2013 Urban Prep graduate David Peake; YouthBuild alumnus Johnny Herber; National Evangelical Coalition President Rev. Gabriel Salguero; Principal of Tarkington School of Excellence Vincent Iturralde; and parent mentor Joe Blanding, Jr., among others.
This press release was originally posted on the Baltimore County Public Schools website on June 11, 2015.