In May, a team of documentarians from Ohio spent a week following the students from their homes through their days at school and back again. The goal was to capture teen life in a typical rural American town.
The idea was the brainchild of Denair High Principal Kara Backman, whose objective was to shine a positive light on the community as well as her campus. Her voice can be heard on the video along with former Superintendent Aaron Rosander, teachers, and students.
“I was thrilled to see it,” Backman said. “I think it paints a true picture of our students and staff. I was emotional.”
Reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, she said, from community members to people on the other side of the country who have never been to Denair.“It’s all over social media,” Backman said. “I’m getting calls left and right. I got one from friend in Pennsylvania who was sobbing.”
The students were selected with the blessings of their families. They are Connor Prock (an incoming freshman at the high school), soon-to-be senior Adrianna Snyder and recent graduate Alex Flores. They were chosen as authentic representatives of the broader student body and community.
Prock comes from a prominent farming family with generational roots in Denair. His parents, Joe and Danielle, are both Denair High graduates. His grandfather and uncle both have served on the school board. They operate a dairy with thousands of cows. Connor raises beef cattle, which affords a glimpse into agricultural life.
Snyder lives with her aunt and uncle, who adopted her, and their 11-year-old autistic son. She learned to sign at a young age to communicate with her grandmother, who is deaf.
Flores is the second-oldest of five children among an immigrant family from Mexico. His older brother was the first family member to attend college; Alex will be the second when he starts this fall at UC Davis.
Each segment of the documentary opens at the student’s home with them literally getting out of bed, brushing their teeth, doing chores, caring for relatives and having breakfast before heading off to class.
Poignant interviews with their families, friends and teachers are interspersed by information about the community. Background footage and drone videos offer different perspectives of Denair.
Backman intends to show the video on the district’s social media sites, at student events or Back to School Nights, at large conferences … anywhere there’s an audience willing to learn more about the many good things happening in Denair.
She also said it’s been submitted for a film festival in Ohio. She expects to learn next week if it was accepted.