Class of '27

About This Episode

Filmed in the hollows of Appalachia, on native lands of the Upper Midwest and in West Coast migrant camps, the duPont-Columbia Award-winning Class of ’27 presents distinct yet complementary personal stories from places too often ignored in America. Each of the three portraits demonstrates that children from distressed communities, despite their circumstances, are more likely to grow into productive and civically engaged adults if they receive support in their earliest years. Committed to supporting the children’s potential, each community is a place of hope, inspiration and resilience.

"Class of ’27" by James Rutenbeck
The first portrait follows preschoolers in Booneville, Ky. With local employment largely limited to the school system, these children have caring and competent adults preparing them for better futures. “I’m getting them ready for kindergarten,” says Betsy Coomer, a tireless early-education teacher with decades of experience. At the same time, Cleda Turner of Owsley County Outreach, organizes food packets for hungry children to take home for the weekend on Fridays after school.

"Little Dream Catchers" by Dustinn Craig
The second portrait introduces audiences to White Earth Nation in Minnesota. Preschoolers learn school readiness while engaging in tribal rituals, such as pow-wows, to prepare for kindergarten with a sense of identity. Former Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, herself an educator with graduate degrees, sums up the mission of White Earth early education as “a lifetime of choices instead of a lifetime of circumstances.” She notes: “Education is our ticket out of poverty here; it was my ticket.”

"Fields of Promise" by Nina Alvarez
The third portrait follows Mireya and her parents from Fresno, Calif., to Oregon’s Willamette Valley for berry season. Mireya’s parents, who are migrant workers and speak Spanish and Mixteco at home, face work days as long as 12 hours. They enroll her in Migrant Head Start where bilingual teacher, Aimee Brown, makes it a warm and engaging academic experience that includes meals and outdoor play.

Each short film in Class of ’27 opens with a reflection by award-winning writers Silas House, Gyasi Ross and Sandra Cisneros, who frame each story with authenticity and insight.

Class of ’27 is a co-production of Lost Nation Pictures and Independent Television Service (ITVS). The film is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Class of ’27 is presented as part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative made possible by CPB to help local communities across America keep more students on the path to graduation.

  • AmGrad/CPB
  • ITVS