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First Generation has a new home! July 6, 2009

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We are excited to announce that First Generation has a new website where you can find the latest news about the film, the issue of college access, and how you can get involved.

Please update our web address if you are linking to our site: http://www.firstgenerationfilm.com

Thank you so much for your continued support of this project!!!

Jaye & Adam

Homeless to Harvard June 26, 2009

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I find the story of Khadijah Williams absolutely inspiring.  This young woman spent most of her life living on the streets, attending 12 schools in 12 years, and doing all she could to get good grades and finish her education.  This year she was accepted to Harvard where she’ll be attending in the fall, and her journey there is nothing short of incredible.  Read her story here.

(Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)

(Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)

CA Valedictorian Barred from Giving Graduation Speech June 25, 2009

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California students and educators are up in arms about our state’s educational crisis and the recently proposed cuts by the Governor, and we all have opinions about what should and shouldn’t be done to untangle the mess in which we’ve found ourselves.

Aurora Ponce, senior class president with a nearly perfect A-average, recently participated in a student sit-in to protest increased class sizes and the elimination of college prep classes.  But now “according to the 18-year-old and her supporters, officials at the Accelerated School, a collection of South Los Angeles charter schools, have barred Ponce from making her valedictory speech at Saturday’s graduation as punishment. They have also taken away a summer tutoring job and other honors, she said.”

Seriously?!

Click here to read the full article in The Los Angeles Times.

Cal Grants in Jeopardy May 27, 2009

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Gov. Schwarzenegger’s latest budget cut proposal for California includes terminating all new Cal Grants and taking $750 million for the UC and Cal State systems.  This is devasting news for low-income and first generation students trying to make it to college.

Here’s a summary of how the governor would cut $5.5 billion through June 2010:

— $750 million from the University of California and California State University systems, bringing the total reduction over two fiscal years to nearly $2 billion.

— $10.3 million – Eliminate all state general fund spending for UC Hastings College of Law.

— $173 million – Eliminate new Cal Grants.

— $70 million – Eliminate general fund support for state parks, potentially closing 80 percent of them.

— $247.8 million – Eliminate the Healthy Families program, which provides health care to nearly 1 million poor children.

— $1.3 billion – Eliminate the CalWorks program, which primarily helps unemployed single mothers find jobs.

— $809 million – Release nonviolent, non-serious, non-sex offenders one year early, and reduce the Corrections Department’s contract work, rehabilitation and education programs.

More Students, Less Counselors in CA May 21, 2009

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Among the flood of tentative pink slips that were mailed to educators this spring were layoff notices for about 2,500 counselors – about 25 percent of the total, according to figures from the California Association of School Counselors.

Yikes!

In 2006 the average counselor’s caseload in California public schools was reduced from 846 to 685 students. This already ranks pretty close to last in the nation in terms of counselor to student ratios, so the latest cuts are not a good sign for a state floundering to address the issue of high school drop-outs and a deficit of college graduates in the workforce.

Oh, California, however will we dig ourselves out of this educational quagmire?

Unprecedented Results in the Harlem Children’s Zone May 8, 2009

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Harlem Children's ZoneIt seems everyone has a different opinion on how to solve the achievement gap, but after reading David Brooks’ Op-Ed piece in The New York Times I’m convinced that Geoffrey Canada and his Harlem Children’s Zone are onto something. You can read the full article here, and, of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

College Grads Earn $26K More Per Year April 29, 2009

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The latest findings from the U.S. Census Bureau show that “workers with high school diplomas earned an average of $31,286 in 2007, while those with bachelor’s degrees earned an average of $57,181.” Despite the rising price of a 4-yr education,  in the long run earning a college degree will more than pay back the cost of tuition even if it means taking out some low-interest student loans.  For more stats from the latest U.S. Census read the full article.

Should Illegal Immigrants Get In-State Tuition Rates? April 23, 2009

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College Board has announced that it is backing the Dream Act, a bill that would, according to U.S. News & World Report “allow students who have lived in the country since age 15 to apply for conditional legal residence after graduating from high school. They would then be able to work and pay in-state college tuition rates. Those who attend college or join the military could ultimately become citizens. The College Board says that in addition to helping the estimated 360,000 undocumented students of college age now, the Dream Act could open the doors to higher ed for 715,000 more students between the ages of 5 and 17 who are living in the country illegally.”

It is a controversial issue, for sure.  On the one hand, I think everyone should have the opportunity to go to college, and I do support allowing undocumented students to enroll in college in the U.S. But it gets a little dicey for me when we talk about giving those students in-state tuition discounts since we already have a HUGE problem of enrolling academically qualified low-income U.S. citizens in college. I get nervous that giving undocumented students in-state tuition rates will add enormous pressure to our already inadequate financial aid system and end up making college admission to state schools, like the UC’s even more competitive than they already are. Just last year, the UC system made the decision to enroll more out-of-state students because they needed to increase their revenue.

I haven’t researched this adequately enough to come to a definite conclusion, but those are just my initial thoughts.  I’d love to hear what you think about the Dream Act.  Should illegal immigrants be allowed to enroll in college and pay in-state tuition rates?  Do you agree with the College Board’s decision to support the Dream Act?

So You Think A College Degree Is Overrated? April 20, 2009

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Given the rising rates of college tuition coupled with the downtrend of the economy, the value of a college degree has recently come under fire in articles like this one . But I have a hard time believing that any degree-carrying middle or upper class parent of a child who has the potential to go to college would say, “Actually, a college degree is so overrated and not worth the money in the long run.”

I have a hard time believing that since currently 90% of college students hail from middle and upper class families. And those same families spend upwards of $2 billion/year (on top of 4-years of college tuition) keeping a college test and admissions prep industry afloat to ensure their children do, in fact, go to college.

True, college is not for everyone, and a person can certainly make a great living without a college degree. But, in my opinion, the greater issue is that those students who have the potential to go to college and would greatly benefit from the experience are not earning their four-year degrees. And it’s just not the students that are being left behind, but our state and national economy suffer from this achievement gap.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that California will face a shortage of college grads by 2025. “35% of the state’s working-age adults will hold a four-year degree, while a college education will be required for at least 41% of job-holders.”

That’s a pretty sobering thought. So if the social justice aspect that every student should have the opportunity to go to college isn’t convincing enough, then perhaps the economic reality will move us to action.

A Weekend in Memphis April 7, 2009

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Earlier this year one of the students in our film moved out to Memphis, so this past weekend we got on a plane and headed out to the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll to catch up with her. Being the low-budget documentary that it is, we decided to save money by doing everything ourselves. Hello, the Adam and Jaye crew.

The bleary-eyed 5am crew.

The bleary-eyed 5am crew.

Our adventure started at 4:30am on Saturday at the LAX airport where we discovered that it cost an additional $30 per bag for checked luggage. Yikes! It didn’t help that we were hauling a camera, tripod, sound gear, two hard drives, a boom mic, our personal luggage, and my laptop. We crammed as much stuff as we could into our carry-ons and prayed that security wouldn’t hassle us too much for all our film gear.

Thankfully, we didn’t get stopped at LAX, and we were finally on our way. The weekend was a whirlwind of filming every day, so we didn’t have much time for sightseeing. However, we did manage to get our fill of tasty Memphis BBQ at Corky’s on Poplar Avenue. We highly recommend it to anyone passing through! Afterward we checked out the famed Beale Street pulsating with live music and a lot of interesting characters.

Corky's BBQ

The rest of the weekend was spent filming, filming, and more filming. Adam was a champ operating both camera and sound, and I had the relatively easy job of interviewing, driving while Adam got b-roll, and then holding the boom mic when we were filming reality. We almost didn’t make our flight home on Sunday because we got caught up filming on the Tennessee highway, and then got held up by the Memphis TSA who made us unpack every single item of equipment and then had a pow wow to determine our fate. We were finally allowed to pass through and made it back to LAX in one piece.

Tennessee

Overall, it was a great weekend of filming even though it was pretty stressful having just the two of us there. But it made us super thankful for our LA-based crew, and we’re so excited our student is moving back to California in a few weeks.