A handful of young people are featured in the 95-minute film that will have a national release in mid-2013. Cynthia Gallardo of Des Moines is one of them.
Gallardo, 18, grew up in poverty. As a child, she saw her father arrested on drug charges. And like her three older sisters, she became a teen mom.
But Gallardo beat the odds. She graduated from high school in May and started taking classes this week at Des Moines Area Community College.
Thanks to documentary filmmaker Jason Pollock, her triumphs have gone viral.
“I wanted better; I wanted that diploma,” said Gallardo, whose initial Undroppable interview has been viewed more than 71,000 times on YouTube and was tweeted by pop sensation Justin Bieber. “I had a baby. I went through all this bad stuff when I was little, but I didn’t let that affect me.”
Like Bully and Waiting for Superman, the movie seeks to ignite a national conversation about the state of the nation’s education system. Stories such as Gallardo’s show that all children can graduate, with the right support, Pollock said.
But for every at-risk student who receives a diploma, many more teens fall prey to “the drop-out epidemic,” Pollock said. While audience members may connect with Gallardo — whom Pollock calls a “superhero” — the film also touches on the tragedy of untapped potential among the students who don’t graduate.
At more than 1,500 U.S. high schools, 40% or more of freshmen drop out before graduation.
Pollock draws a contrast: Ours is a society that has reinvented communication with the iPhone and has put a rover on Mars, yet tolerates an education system that each year fails to graduate more than a million students from high school.
“Every movie has a bad guy and a hero, and I would say the bad guy in this movie is society,” Pollock said, noting that schools, parents and communities all share some of the blame. “… I hope that the film is a way to force everybody to look in the mirror and say: ‘We’re never going to get out of this economic funk unless we fix our education system first.’ ”
Gallardo understands the circumstances that cause students to leave school…
Read more: USA Today