About this project.
The discovery that launched this project was a worksheet I found in November 2017 from when I was seven years old and a recent immigrant to the United States from Ukraine.
In April 2018, I traveled across America with filmmaker Aimee Hoffman, asking 120 young people of different ages and backgrounds what they would change if they were the President of the United States.
We started filming in San Francisco, and continued to Boulder, Colorado; New Orleans, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee; Canfield, Girard, and Warren, all in Ohio where we were joined by filmmaker Kelly Teacher, and we ended the journey together in the Bronx and Manhattan.
San Francisco, California
We spoke with 7th graders at The Hamlin School, a prestigious K-8 girls-only school whose yearly tuition is $34,500, with the school committed to socioeconomic diversity by providing financial assistance to 24% of the student body.
The Bay Area is on the frontlines of gentrification and a widening wealth gap, with a report by the UN referring to the treatment of its homeless population as “cruel and inhuman treatment and a violation of multiple human rights.”
We spoke with 8th graders at Summit Middle School, which was founded in 1996 as the first charter school in the district and named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, the highest national award given in education. (I’m a Class of 2004 alumni.)
Boulder is an idyllic city at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that consistently gets top rankings for health, well-being, and quality of life, and residents often refer to it as “a liberal bubble.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
We spoke with high school students at Cohen College Prep, a charter school like most public schools after Hurricane Katrina.
The inner-city high school recently made news for its students protesting gun violence after a student was shot in the head the day before Mardi Gras and staff layoffs which caused issues like substitute teachers teaching the same lesson every day for months.
We spoke with 3rd and 4th graders at Purpose Preparatory Academy, a K-4 free-to-attend charter school that accelerates the achievement of economically disadvantaged students.
The five-year-old school ranks in the top 5% of schools in the state of Tennessee for academic performance.
Canfield, Girard, and Warren, Ohio
We spoke with first graders at C.H. Campbell Elementary, 4th-6th graders at Girard Intermediate Middle School, and juniors and seniors at Warren G. Harding High, all public schools in the Youngstown area, which was once a center of U.S. steel production, but the area fell into decline in 1977 when a major factory closed and 40,000 people lost their manufacturing jobs.
Ohio is now one of the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths, with Youngstown frequently featured in editorials about the crisis.
Bronx and New York City, New York
We spoke with teenagers at Educational Alliance, a Jewish organization that brings together diverse communities in Lower Manhattan and runs a Teen Center committed “to empowering New York City teens to achieve their full potential.” We also spoke with the 8th grade robotics team at St. Theresa School, an Archdiocesan Catholic school that serves a predominantly Italian community in the Bronx.