December 19, 2016 — There are always kids who live their lives without a sense that anyone cares what happens to them.
Kids from broken homes, in indigent areas, kids whose families are caught in a spiral of poverty, drug abuse, early pregnancies, homelessness, joblessness. Despair is all they have ever known.
Kids who grow up in these kinds of situations often don’t believe that they have a chance of succeeding. They give up on themselves early.
Unfortunately, many educators give up on them, too. They are all to ready to label these teenagers as “The Bad Kids,” and relegate them to schools where no one pays attention; schools that are little more than repositories for failing students.
That is a likely fate for certain kids — unless they find themselves in a school like Black Rock Continuation High School, an alternative school located in an indigent area in the Mojave Desert.
Black Rock is a last chance for these kids. They are considered unable to graduate from a traditional school. But at Black Rock, the teachers and the principal refuse to give up on the kids, or let the kids give up on themselves.
Black Rock’s MO has been devised by an exceptional and caring staff. Principal Vonda Viland takes it on herself to focus on the students as individuals, attempting to deal with the stresses and traumas that their difficult lives leave them open to. She concerns herself primarily with keeping the students in school, recognizing that academic achievement can come later. She develops a personal relationship with all at-risk kids (she often gets into school before 5:00, calling those she feels are likely to miss school; she has been known to pick up students in her car if they have no way to get in). Students are treated with respect, greeted by name at the door. They are taught to respect themselves and to think about the future. For many of these kids, this is the first time that anyone has treated them in this way.
The Bad Kids documents the way Principal Viland and her staff look out for these young people. It focusses on three students, Joey, Jennifer and Lee, whose lives are a trauma cycle of abuse, homelessness, drug abuse (their own and their parents’) and teenage pregnancy. It shows that for these three students (and by extension, for so many others) being treated with respect is a new experience; being taught to think of themselves as people with a future is both frightening and eye-opening.
Black Rock is an example of a school that can make a difference in the lives of its most endangered students and set them on a path to something most thought they could never achieve — a high school diploma.
The Bad Kids opens theatrically on December 23. Check here for theaters and times.