December 23, 2016 — Sometimes educators can make all the difference in a young person’s life.
By the time kids arrive at Black Rock Continuation High School, they have already been labelled as problems, and most of the teachers who have encountered them have written them off as incapable of performing in school. No one believes they can earn a high school diploma. Black Rock is where they are sent, to bide their time until they are legally allowed to leave school.
These kids are from troubled homes in the Mojave Desert; their lives have been plagued by drug abuse — their own and their parents’ — poverty, teenaged pregnancy, sexual and psychological abuse. They are kids without a future.
But then they meet Vonda Viland, the principal of Black Rock. She refuses to give up on any of them. She sees them as individuals and she believes she can help every one of them get a diploma.
Her first plan — keep them in school. Prevent them from dropping out. So what if they don’t learn Physics. As long as they show up, they are reachable. And she will make it her job to reach them.
She is on the phone at 5:00 a.m., calling the kids she thinks are most likely to miss school. If they don’t have a way to get there, she or her staff will drive out to their homes to pick them up. She greets everyone by name at the door.
She shows them respect, a novelty in most of their lives. She and her staff are often the first adults to care and look out for them. This is a brand new sensation for many of these young people.
Every student will not graduate. But graduation rates are rising, and under the circumstances, that’s close to a miracle.
The Bad Kids follows three of Viland’s charges through a year at her remarkable school.
The Bad Kids opens theatrically today. Check here for theaters and times.