Downloads: Press Release

Programs are part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, Which Helps Communities Understand and Address the High School Dropout Crisis

American Documentary | POV has awarded grants totaling $150,000 to 17 PBS stations to support local programming and community activities connected with the award-winning documentaries American Promise and Brooklyn Castle. The films and related community activities are part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that helps communities identify and implement solutions to improve high school graduation rates.

Grants have been awarded to Detroit Public TV; East Tennessee PBS (Knoxville, Tenn.); KCPT (Kansas City, Mo.); Mountain Lake PBS (Plattsburgh, N.Y.); NET Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.); The Nine Network (St. Louis); PBS SoCaL (Costa, Mesa, Calif.); Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA); UNC-TV(Research Triangle Park, N.C.); Vermont Public Television (VPT); WFYI Public Media (Indianapolis); WGBH Boston; WMHT (Troy, N.Y.); WHUT/Howard University Television (Washington, D.C.); WTVI PBS Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.); and WUCF TV (Orlando, Fla.); WXXI (Rochester, N.Y.). Each grantee will broadcast American Promise starting in February 2014 (check local listings), and select stations will rebroadcast Brooklyn Castle.

The stations will engage community stakeholders in discussions around key issues and solutions raised in the films, including the value of afterschool programs and ways to close the black male achievement gap. In addition, POV will support stations’ efforts to raise awareness of these issues with a robust radio and online advertising and marketing campaign.

“POV’s American Graduate engagement campaign builds on the extensive work that CPB has accomplished in reaching communities facing educational challenges, especially communities of color,” said Eliza Licht, vice president of community engagement for POV. “This campaign provides concrete examples and tools to help parents, caretakers, teachers and young people address these issues in their communities and improve outcomes for students.”

“Parents in America are struggling to secure the highest quality education for their children,” said Cynthia López, co-executive producer of POV. “Local PBS stations are taking the lead by partnering with parents and community-based and educational institutions to help students in their communities achieve their full potential. POV is proud to join with PBS and CPB to be part of the solution. This campaign would not be possible without the invaluable support of CPB’s American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen.”

Stations will have access to POV’s educational materials to assist in the implementation of their outreach events, including in-depth discussion guides with talking points, action steps and resources; lesson plans designed for grades 6-12 and college students; and POV’s companion websites, and

About the films:

American Promise by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, premieres on POV on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 at 10 p.m. (check local listings). The film spans 13 years as these middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, and his best friend who make their way through Manhattan’s prestigious private Dalton School. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.

American Promise won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The film is a co-production of Rada Film Group, ITVS and POV’s Diverse Voices Project, with funding provided by CPB. It is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, made possible by CPB. The film is produced in association with American Documentary | POV and is a co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium.

On Jan. 14, 2014, Spiegel & Grau will publish PROMISES KEPT: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life, by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson with Hilary Beard. Where American Promise raises provocative questions, PROMISES KEPT delivers answers, combining insights Brewster and Stephenson derived from their own experiences with the latest research on closing the black male achievement gap and providing readers with an unprecedented toolkit of practical strategies from infancy through the teenaged years.

Katie Dellamaggiore’s Brooklyn Castle, which premiered on POV in October 2013, looks at a powerhouse junior high chess team that has won more than 30 national championships, the most of any school in the country. I.S. 318’s 85-member squad boasts so many strong players that the late Albert Einstein, a dedicated chess maven, would rank fourth if he were on the team. Most astoundingly, this Brooklyn school serves mainly minority students from families living below the poverty line. Brooklyn Castle is the exhilarating story of five of the school’s aspiring young players and how chess became the school’s unlikely inspiration for academic success.

Station activities:

Detroit Public TV (WTVS) will produce a segment profiling the Detroit City Chess Club, a community organization run by an educator, and examine how chess and after-school activities lead to improved academic performance. The vignette and a segment of Brooklyn Castle will subsequently be shown at the Detroit Institute of Arts and on DPTV’s weekly public affairs program American Black Journal, both followed by a panel discussion about issues related to promoting academic achievement within the black community. The program will be archived online on

East Tennessee PBS (Knoxville, Tenn.) will host a screening of American Promise, followed by a facilitated panel discussion that will be broadcast as a short documentary in the spring of 2014. The station will create three short videos for use on its website, and on social media platforms. The videos will serve both as evergreen online content and as promotion for the broadcast.

KCPT (Kansas City, Mo.) will produce and broadcast a segment focusing on local organizations that work with young African American males, including the Kansas City Chapter of 100 Black Men. In addition, the work of local high school students who are part of PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs will be featured on air and on the station’s website, Prior to the broadcast of American Promise, KCPT will host a community screening followed by a panel discussion.

Mountain Lake PBS (WCFE TV, Plattsburgh, N.Y.) will partner with State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh to present a screening of American Promise. The station will tape a roundtable discussion featuring representatives from CV-TEC Career and Technical Education School, community partners and a studio audience with the goal of helping to close the opportunity gap for students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The discussion will be posted on the station’s Career and Technical Education page on, which will house a toolbox of resources for educators, students, teachers and parents to learn about local training and career opportunities.

NET Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.), will present a two-night broadcast event on educational challenges facing young men of color. The night after its broadcast of American Promise, NET Nebraska will present a town-hall panel discussion originating live from both its headquarters in Lincoln and via the facilities of the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s UNO Television. During the live telecast, streamed on, studio and statewide viewers will have an opportunity to contribute questions, comment via social media and engage with panelists. Additionally, salons will be organized and moderated by outreach partners such as 100 Black Men of Omaha, the Omaha Empowerment Network and the Omaha and Lincoln branches of the NAACP.

The Nine Network (KETC, St. Louis) will incorporate Brooklyn Castle and American Promise into its Nine Academy Curriculum, empowering youth to create unique videos that explore their communities in relation to key themes from these documentaries. Both films will be screened for the students to use as inspiration for their own digital stories, which will be shared through Nine Networks platforms, inspiring discussions and action around the challenges related to the dropout crisis. A community screening of the student-produced videos will take place at the culmination of the Nine Academy Workshop, and stories will be shared and promoted via social media, the website, Nine Network’s YouTube channel and American Graduate community partners.

PBS SoCaL (KOCE-TV, Costa, Mesa, Calif.), the lead PBS station in Southern California, will offer a multi-platform campaign promoting community engagement surrounding American Promise and Brooklyn Castle. The station will promote the films on-air and online ( and hold screenings in the Los Angeles area, providing avenues for dialogue on the subject of opportunity gaps for minorities.

Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA) will host a screening of American Promise in an Atlanta Public School (APS) auditorium for teachers, principals, parents, community stakeholders and school district staff.
APS 22 will produce training videos and programming that follow principals and teachers back into the classroom to document how they are working to close the black male achievement gap. The videos, showing examples of classroom instruction, will be available on for teacher training around best practices. In addition, the videos will be aired periodically on PBA’s educational access channel to highlight the importance of this topic.

UNC-TV (Research Triangle Park, N.C.) will produce a special one-hour program, Focus on Breaking Down the Barriers to Student Achievement, with a panel discussion moderated by Deborah Noel, regular host of the station’s weekly Black Issues Forum. The audience will have a chance to pose questions, as will viewers solicited via social media prior to the program’s taping. In addition, national and local community partners will host local screenings.

Vermont Public Television (VPT), Colchester, Vt., will conduct community engagement activities around both American Promise and Brooklyn Castle including free public screenings throughout the state, accompanied by discussions with experts. VPT will film one discussion at an American Promise event and one at the Brooklyn Castle screening, both available on the station’s website,

WFYI Public Media (Indianapolis), an active leader in the American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen initiative, will use American Promise and Brooklyn Castle to reinforce its ongoing message about the importance of high school graduation. WFYI will air the films during the second quarter of 2014 and host a local event featuring segments of American Promise, a panel conversation and training for teachers, counselors and youth agency staff. Attendees will be given a copy of the book PROMISES KEPT. In addition to offering the panel discussion on, WFYI will develop a news story on 90.1 Public Radio.

WGBH Boston‘s Senior Investigative Reporter, Phillip Martin, moderated a panel discussion after a special screening of American Promise at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., with filmmaker Joe Brewster, Travis McCready (the Boston Foundation), Andrew Wolk (Root Cause) and Rahn Dorsey (Barr Foundation). Brewster appeared on WGBH’s long-running series Basic Black (to air in January 2014 with the release of the book PROMISES KEPT) for a discussion on the film and the impact of class on the achievement gap. Joining Brewster and Martin were WGBH News’ Callie Crossley; Peniel Joseph, professor of history at Tufts University; and Kim McLarin, cultural commentator and professor of writing at Emerson College.

WHUT/Howard University Television (Washington, D.C.) will produce an episode of its Vocal Point series focusing on challenges and solutions for closing the black male achievement gap, including such issues as funding for after-school programs. The program, taped at the station’s studios in front of a live audience, will air in February 2014 and stream online at The station will host a screening of American Promise in March 2014 at one of its American Graduate partner locations in the Anacostia area to encourage students and teachers to use lesson plans in the classroom or as part of extra-curricular activities. Students will be provided with flip cameras to shoot a short video capturing some of the themes from the film through their eyes. A website will be created to feature the students’ videos.

WMHT (Troy, N.Y.) will work with community partners to present screenings of American Promise, featuring receptions and panel discussions with educators, elected officials and students. A shortened version of the panel will be featured on the station’s American Graduate website on In addition, WHMT will produce a New York NOW special with expert panelists to air the week of the American Promise broadcast; excerpts from the discussions and interviews with audience members will be featured online.

WTVI PBS Charlotte (Charlotte, N.C.), which joined the American Graduate initiative in 2011, will produce a local television segment, conduct screening events and air both American Promise and Brooklyn Castle. WTVI’s events for American Promise will provide an opportunity to view the documentary in a community setting and a venue for conversation about themes that resonate within the Charlotte region, such as the closing of the achievement gap and the development of holistic support services for black males. WTVI will produce and broadcast a segment on its new program Carolina Impact and will present three Community Screening and Conversation events in partnership with local agencies. All events will be videotaped and published on the WTVI website,

WUCF TV (Orlando, Fla.) will host a public screening event with a panel discussion and produce two related episodes of the station’s local public-affairs program Metro Center Outlook. WUCF TV will invite the community to attend a screening of one of the POV films; the event will feature a discussion with key local leaders talking about a broad range of issues about youth and education. In addition, WUCF TV will produce four testimonials using local stories to be featured between guest interviews on Metro Center Outlook.

WXXI‘s Educational Outreach Center in Rochester, N.Y. will sponsor a screening of American Promise at the Little Theatre and tape the talkback segment for the website,, as part of the station’s American Graduate on-demand collection. WXXI will also incorporate American Promise resources into its annual Youth Media Project, where up to 100 students visit the station to learn about digital media creation. WXXI will present American Promise resources as part of the issues that the students may consider for their video mini-docs in January and February 2014. The station will provide POV’s educational materials to teachers supporting the students’ work.

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is helping local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs, and inspires public radio and television stations–locally owned and operated–are important resources in helping to address critical issues, such as the dropout rate. In addition to national programming, more than 75 public radio and television stations in 33 states have launched on-the-ground efforts working with community and at risk youth to keep students on-track to high school graduation. More than 1000 partnerships have been formed locally through American Graduate, and CPB is working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and now in its 26th season on PBS, the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 365 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide. POV films have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmys, 15 George Foster Peabody Awards, 10 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards® and the Prix Italia. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues. Visit

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American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.

Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the desJardins/Blachman Fund and public television viewers. Funding for POV’s Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Special support provided by The Fledgling Fund and the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with

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Produced by American Documentary, Inc., POV is public television’s premier showcase for nonfiction films. Since 1988, POV has been the home for the world’s boldest contemporary filmmakers, celebrating intriguing personal stories that spark conversation and inspire action. Always an innovator, POV discovers fresh new voices and creates interactive experiences that shine a light on social issues and elevate the art of storytelling. With our documentary broadcasts, original online programming and dynamic community engagement campaigns, we are committed to supporting films that capture the imagination and present diverse perspectives.