East High One of Six Schools in the Nation Featured in “Undroppable”

After leading a national effort last year to increase student attendance, East High School is one of a half-dozen schools to be featured in a new film project titled Undroppable. The Undroppable project is both a documentary and social media campaign focused on raising awareness about the dropout rate in American high schools, and to highlight students and communities that are pushing on and persevering. Both students and staff from East, the largest high school in Iowa, are featured in the project.

“The best word to describe so many of our students is simply ‘brave.’ Despite facing challenging situations and long odds, they know the best route to a better future rests in their education,” said East High principal Steve Johns. “We are honored that East is a part of this project and that are students and staff have the opportunity to share with the world some of the successes taking place in our schools.”

The project’s producing team of Scooter Braun, Adam McKay, Jason Pollock, and Sharon Chang have launched over 60 clips on a new website from Pollock’s recent 8 week trip around America to conduct interviews at East and five other schools. All the content can be seen at www.undroppable.com.

Videos from East High only can be viewed at easthighschool.undroppable.com.

Cynthia Gallardo, a 2012 East graduate, is one of the students featured in “Undroppable:”


“Do many of our students face challenges in their lives outside of school? Of course, and this effort is being very open and honest about that fact, and the fact that many of our kids refuse to give up on themselves, their education, and their future,” added Kris Byam, the smaller learning communities coordinator at East High.

Each of the participating high schools is featured on the site which links to clips of interviews with over 60 different teachers and students around America. The interviews tell the personal stories of what people are going through inside the education system. Pollock gain unprecedented access inside these schools through the project’s educational partner, Get Schooled, which currently works in over 150 schools around America.

Among those interviewed at East High School were students Cynthia Gallardo, Kierra Osborn, Brandon Lane, Maria Sandoval, Manual Delgado, and Allen Dudley, Jr; teachers Amanda Gregory and Tim Walljasper; smaller learning communities coordinator Kris Byam; and principal Steve Johns.

In addition to East High, schools featured in the project are La Causa/Youthbuild Charter School in Los Angeles, CA; Collins Academy in Chicago, IL; Palumbo Academy in Philadelphia, PA; Joplin High School in Joplin, MO; and New Bedford High School in New Bedford, MA.

Pollock began shooting in the schools in April, and plans to use the website to tell his character’s stories through social media and with a feature film, directed by Pollock, expected to be released in 2013. The film hopes to use social media in new and exciting ways during the production.

“These schools are remarkable in their willingness to stand up and tell their stories to the world,” said Adam McKay, a writer, director and producer of several movies and one of the producers of this project. “Through their courage, they will be able to inspire Americans to step up and support them and millions of students and teachers like them.”

“We are excited by the schools participating in this incredibly important project,” said Marie Groark, Executive Director of Get Schooled.  “These schools, their leaders, teachers, and students will offer inspiration as we continue to work to ensure all young people have the education they need to succeed.”

Sharon Chang, another producer of the project and founder of Yoxi added, “These schools represent just the beginning of a much bigger movement: a network of students, teachers, and administrators empowered by social media storytelling to share their unique journeys in search of a better educational system. In an unprecedented way, media is directed towards listening more than talking, collaborating more than judging.”

The project got a major boost a few weeks ago, when Scooter Braun, the manager of Justin Bieber, signed on as a producer of the project. “I think Pollock’s effort in schools is going to change the conversation around how people see these systems. Education truly is the cornerstone of humanity,” said Braun.

In December, East High was recognized for improving its attendance by three percent in seven weeks to win the Central Region of the Get Schooled Foundation’s Fall Attendance Challenge. Sponsored by the Get Schooled Foundation, the friendly competition included nearly 80,000 students at 73 schools in 17 states. Get Schooled, which is also a sponsor of the Undroppable project, is a non-profit organization dedicated to using media, technology and popular culture to improve high school graduation rates and college success rates. Get Schooled connects with young Americans through its combination of on-air programming, online content, on-the ground events and school-based engagement initiatives.  Together with hundreds of schools, educators, and students, and boosted by partners like Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Get Schooled motivates and empowers students to make high school education a priority and college education a possibility.

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