Saturday, September 5, 2015

Paper Tigers

photo via press kit at papertigersmovie.com
Last night I had the opportunity to screen the new documentary Paper Tigers. Directed by Jamie Redford, this film delves into the lives of several students at Lincoln High, Walla Walla's alternative high school. In the last five years, the school has shifted to a model of non-punitive discipline structure that works with a trauma-informed staff and administration who are armed with research about Adverse Childhood Experience(s) (ACEs) and the affect that living in an environment of chronic stress and compound trauma has on the brains of children. It followed several students over the course of a year, graduating in 2013. It is astounding to me the differences that have been the result of this pardigm shift over such a short period of time. Watch the trailer by clicking here.

Coming from a child welfare background, it was already a subject that was interesting to me, and I've been a bit of a docu-junkie lately watching almost every documentary available on Netflix revolving around our penal system, drug wars, food insecurity, substance abuse, immigration...all of which seem to tie back into generational poverty and stress. As one documentary ends and I go to choose the next, I find myself thinking about all of the social implications, but then not sure of concrete ways I could apply what I've just seen to my own environment. After finishing last night, it was almost more overwhelming because it is my environment that I just spend the last two hours watching. I lay in bed with my mind turning over ideas and thinking about the kids and teachers in the film (Hey! She went to bootcamp with me; hey! I know her!).

So, back to what we can do. Immediately. Without special training. Be kind to each face you see walking around town. Give grace freely and without patronism, even when you know a person, you don't know all that they struggle with. Know someone that works at Lincoln? Support them. They're willingly taking on an enormous emotional load by working with a high-risk student body. You can love the kids and your work, but it still takes a toll. Donate to the attached Health Center- they have a wishlist with items as easy as picking up an extra box of band-aids or granola bars the next time you go grocery shopping. They also have an extensive list of volunteer opportunities for everything from spring cleaning at the clinic to stuffing envelopes for mailers to volunteering your time as a healthcare provider or mental health professional. I hope that the list of ways we can support only grows from here.

The only misgiving I had about it was that a lot of the shots were of the most barren parts of town (empty railroad tracks, highway underpasses, etc). I totally understand why this was done from a theatric/cinematic standpoint, but I felt like in order to get a full picture of the community, it's almost more dramatic to see the stark contrast between wealth and poverty in this little town, and that they all exist within blocks of each other, often within the same block. It makes the work that Lincoln High is doing so well even more important.

If you didn't get a chance to attend the screening (both showings were sold out), I know that there are several people interested in organizing screenings and I hope to take on organizing one for later this fall. After a few months, it will be released to the educational sector and then in Spring of 2016, it will be released for individual purchase on platforms like iTunes and Amazon. There is so much to be said about this topic and the film that I can't even seem to gather my thoughts. It's a great conversation starter, and I know it will result in more schools in the nation making a shift to this model where they can. I hope that in our community it raises awareness, and support of, the amazing things that can result from tireless educators, counselors, law enforcement and healthcare providers who are a source of unwavering support and stability to the kids who need it the very most.

Mr. Sporleder, Lincoln's principal, has since retired and is working with the Children's Resilience Initiative 'Resilience Trumps Aces' and travels for speaking engagements and education throughout the country. The results from Lincoln's implementation of the trauma-aware protocols have gained national attention.

During the Q & A last night, Mr. Redford said that Paper Tigers' follow-up Resilience is in the works, and it sounds like it'll be another good one to watch.

No comments: