DURHAM, N.H. – “Who Cares About Kelsey?”, the award-winning documentary by University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability filmmaker Dan Habib, gets its broadcast premiere on New Hampshire Public Television EXPLORE (Channel 11 for Comcast customers) on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. The film will also be broadcast on Sunday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m.
The film follows Kelsey Carroll, whose goal is to graduate from high school. But there are plenty of reasons why she shouldn’t. She attends Somersworth High School, a school that had one of the highest dropout rates in New Hampshire, and she has dealt with homelessness, abuse, self-mutilation, and ADHD. During Kelsey’s sophomore year, new school leadership implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and a youth-directed planning process called RENEW to improve the school’s culture and reduce the dropout rate.
“Who Cares About Kelsey?” is the story of Kelsey’s transformation from a defiant and disruptive “problem student” to a motivated and self-confident young woman. Along the way, critical figures in her life play important roles in an education revolution that’s about empowering—not overpowering—students with emotional/behavioral disabilities.
“When I met Kelsey, she was disruptive, she wasn’t easy to like all the time. She’s very smart, she’s very funny, but she’s got a real rough edge to her,” Habib told New Hampshire Chronicle. “What I saw happen through the course of the filming was she transformed into a person who had much more of a belief in herself.”
The film captures a pressing national issue: poor outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD). Youth with EBD:
- have the worst graduation rates of all students with disabilities. Nationally, only 40 percent of students with EBD graduate from high school, compared to the national graduation average of 76 percent.
- are three times as likely as other students to be arrested before leaving school.
- are twice as likely as other students with other disabilities (e.g. developmental or learning) to be living in a correctional facility, halfway house, drug treatment center, or on the street after leaving school.
- are twice as likely as students with other disabilities to become teenage mothers.
“Who Cares About Kelsey?” has been screened at film festivals, national conferences, and school districts around the country and has garnered media attention in Education Week magazine and on New Hampshire Chronicle and Boston public radio station WBUR. “Who Cares About Kelsey?” is Habib’s second feature-length film; his previous work includes the Emmy-nominated documentary “Including Samuel,” which was broadcast nationwide on public television stations in fall 2009.
The “Who Cares About Kelsey?” film project also includes nine mini-films documenting the lives of students with emotional/behavioral challenges. The project captures innovative educational approaches that help these students to succeed while improving the overall school culture and climate. The project also includes extensive educational materials and a national outreach/engagement campaign. These elements combine to form a powerful professional development tool and catalyst for public awareness and social change.
The Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. Its mission is to strengthen communities to ensure full access, equal opportunities, and participation for all persons.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.
Photographs are available to download:
Caption: “Who Cares About Kelsey?” chronicles the struggles and transformation of Somersworth High School student Kelsey Carroll, whose emotional and behavioral disabilities threaten her chances to succeed in and graduate from high school. The film, by Dan Habib, filmmaker-in-residence at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, gets its broadcast premiere on New Hampshire Public Television Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at 8 p.m.
Credit: Dan Habib