‘First Generation’ documentary inspires students to see college as a possibility

The national “Go College!” tour made stops at Worthing, Sharpstown International, Sharpstown, and Sam Houston high schools this week to show students that they can go to college regardless of the challenges they may face at home. The tour features a screening of the documentary film, First Generation, which tells the story of four high school students who aspire to break their family’s cycle of poverty by pursuing a college education.

“College is so different from high school,” said Dontay Gray, a cast member in the film who spoke to students briefly after the screening at Sharpstown on Tuesday. “And as a first generation college student, I was really on my own. I had to find people who were like-minded and had similar goals to mine, so that I could stay focused.”

The screening was organized at five high schools by the district’s College Readiness Department. The film will also be shown at Davis on Wednesday afternoon. At the Sharpstown screening, more than 600 sophomores and juniors watched the film in the school’s auditorium.

“A lot of our students will be able to identify with the students in the film because many of them come from low-income homes and will be the first in their family to go to college,” said Sharpstown College Guidance Administrator Amethyst Black-Knox.

After students watched the one-hour film, they heard from a panel of those involved with the project including Gray, the film’s directors Adam and Jaye Fenderson, and Cindy Best, who works in educational financial services with Wells Fargo, the film’s sponsor.  Students asked about preparing for college and were told to dream big, apply to several colleges, and to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) during the second semester of their senior year of high school, because many students are eligible for significant aid, but don’t know because they don’t apply.

“We hope you are inspired by the film and learn from the mistakes the students made,” said Jaye. “We wanted to make a movie that students could relate to, learn from, and see that even though college may be difficult to afford, it is still a possibility for them.”