YAC presents Shelby grad’s film, ‘The Homestretch’

April 29, 2015
The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) of the Community Foundation for Oceana County.

The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) of the Community Foundation for Oceana County.

HART — The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) of the Community Foundation for Oceana County is hosting a public screening of ‘The Homestretch,’ a documentary directed and produced by Kirsten Kelly, a 1990 Shelby High School graduate. The screening is set for Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m. in the Hart Middle School Auditorium.

YAC is also hosting screenings at Hart and Shelby high schools during the day, May 7.

The Homestretch, which aired recently on PBS, is a feature documentary that explores the lives of homeless adolescents in Chicago, breaking harmful stereotypes to build the urgency necessary to address the national crisis of youth homelessness – particularly examining the struggles of unaccompanied homeless youth.

Kelly also directed the film, “Asparagus: Stalking the American Life,” which was broadcast on PBS in 2009.

All donations collected during the community screening will help support homeless youth initiatives in Oceana County. A panel discussion with Kelly will follow the movie. The two school screenings will offer a question-and-answer opportunity with Kelly.

The Homestretch

Last year, over 19,000 students were identified as homeless in Chicago Public Schools,

Roque, one of the homeless youth profiled in the documentary, The Homestretch.

Roque, one of the homeless youth profiled in the documentary, The Homestretch.

and this is not an isolated issue. There are layers of obstacles preventing positive solutions to the problem of youth homelessness.

“The YAC wanted to host the documentary screenings to spread awareness not only about homeless youth in Chicago, but everywhere, even here in Oceana County,” said YAC President Alex Comstock. “We are honored that Ms. Kelly also will be present for the school and community presentations.”

The Homestretch follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these smart, ambitious teenagers – Roque, Kasey and Anthony – will surprise, inspire, and challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being alone and abandoned at an early age. Against all odds, these kids defy stereotypes as they create new, surprising definitions of home. They strive to recover from the traumas of abandonment and homelessness and build the future they have always dreamed of having.

“It is our hope that, through the deeply personal journeys of Kasey, Anthony and Roque, this film can shine a much needed light on one of the most hidden and exploited populations in America – unaccompanied homeless youth,” Kelly said.

“The Homestretch puts a face on the reality of teen homelessness often ‘hidden’ in plain sight, sometimes silently sitting in high school classrooms unsuspected by classmates and teachers. The Homestretch is a story of poverty, violence, loneliness, and pain.”

– Bob Dugan, Big Think.

Youth Advisory Council

The YAC is a group of 43 teens from all five high Oceana County schools. It is as diverse as Oceana’s geography – age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economics and beliefs. They hold monthly meetings during the school year and have the opportunity to attend a state-wide leadership conference each June. They learn how to work as a team – to negotiate, compromise and make hard decisions.

YAC members help set policy and guide distribution of $15,000-$25,000 a year in grants to promising youth-related projects in Oceana – giving back over $370,000 since 1994. They also learn more about their community and believe in serving others.

In addition to hosting The Homestretch May 7, they are collecting gently-used jeans for summer migrant youth; making cards for veterans; and creating pet toys for the animal shelter. Each year, they organize a compliment day, which involves members switching schools and passing out random compliments during lunch hour. This project is done as an anti-bullying and suicide prevention activity.

It has now been over 20 years since the idea of youth-led philanthropy was designed by the Council of Michigan Foundations and the Kellogg Foundation. This was groundbreaking work. In the words of Dr. Russell Mawby, then president of the Kellogg foundation: “A YAC gives young people the opportunity to learn generosity in the only practical way – by being generous.

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