New Heights

The story of two young mothers in D.C. who navigate the complex challenges of being a good parents while also earning their GED. Produced in partnership with the Student Support Center.

The Need

The New Heights program presents an innovative, collaborative school-based initiative to support expectant and parenting students in the completion of their high school education. We set out to design an approach for this project that combined a community/classroom-based, participatory form of video documentation and self-expression with our own professional documentation of student's stories. The overarching goal was to present the stories of hard-working parenting students in an empathetic and authentic light for audiences including prospective students, teachers, administrators, and funders. 

The Story

With one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country, D.C. has long faced a serious dropout crisis. The National Women’s Law Center reports that close to half of girls and one-third of boys who drop-out cite becoming a parent as a determining factor in their choice. Helping teen parents achieve academic success is a key component in not only addressing this crisis but also combating generational cycles of poverty.

New Heights is a short documentary that follows the stories of two young mothers in Washington, D.C. — Fátima and Shirley — as they navigate the complex challenges of being a good parent while also earning their GED. The film takes a personal look at the barriers that young, disadvantaged mothers encounter in their pursuit of education, and what can be done to help overcome these challenges.

New Heights focuses on Fátima and Shirley’s relationship with Megan, a coordinator placed in their school through the collaborative, school-based New Heights initiative that supports expectant and parenting students in the completion of their high school education. As Fátima and Shirley each strive to improve the future for themselves and their sons, New Heights tells an intimate and hopeful story of struggle, resistance and perseverance.

The Team

  • Producer: Lance Kramer
  • Director: Brandon Kramer
  • Editor: Leigh Johnson
  • Directors of Photography: Rafael De La Uz, Brandon Kramer, Nguyen Nguyen, Jen Quintana
  • Music: Sam McCormally
  • Sound: Emma Scott, Ja’anai Delaney, Jen Quintana
  • Audio Mixer: Drew Kennedy
  • Teaching Artists: Ellie Walton, Emma Scott, Brandon Kramer
  • Assistant Editors: Emma Scott, Ja’anai Delaney, Nicholas Price, Michaela Bethune
  • Translations: Luisa Armijo, Daphne Gerig, Sarah Vázquez
  • Color Correction: Peter Cutler

The Client

The New Heights Program for Expectant and Parenting Students provides expectant and parenting District of Columbia Public Schools students - male or female - with the assistance, support and guidance they need to handle the responsibilities of raising a child and graduating from high school. The program seeks to keep students engaged in school, improve the graduation rates of these students, prepare them for college or career, and prevent subsequent pregnancies.

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