Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez
Full Frame 2018
San Francisco, Urbanworld, St Louis, Indie Memphis, Sebastopol Doc, Bentonville, Latino fests in Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego
A former dropout-turned-professor is on a mission to re-engage at risk students.
Victor Rios was on a path to nowhere by his mid-teens – a dropout, drug dealer, gang member, and convicted felon. Through the critical help of mentors, however, Rios found a way out of the poverty and violence, and eventually became a professor. Recognizing the failures of the American education system, Rios reframes the idea of “dropouts” to “pushouts,” questioning how schools fail their students instead. Directors Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez weave Rios’ story together with those of present-day 16-24-year-old youth mentored as part of the Yo!Watts youth center. The film’s strength is in the charismatic Rios; its too-short running time unfortunately leads to only a cursory sense of the kids in the mentorship program. Despite this, the doc offers a positive message – one responsive to the needs of students rather than the school system.