The award winning documentary Accelerating America follows three students at the Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program (UCAP), an independent public middle school located in Providence, RI. The film airs Wednesday, February 17 at 8 P.M.(digital 36.1, Cox/Verizon/Full Channel 8, Dish 7776, DirecTV 36). After the film's debut on WSBE last May, the school received a large monetary donation to help advance its work.
New York-based filmmaker Timothy Hotchner became involved in the school while he was a student at Brown University. Accelerating America is his first feature documentary. Hotchner gained the trust of the three students over several months. As a result, the film presents an intimate look at the children's struggles to overcome abandonment, poverty, and previous educational failure:
America - Sassy but wounded, fourteen-year-old America (whose name inspired the film’s title) was placed in foster care after her allegations of sexual abuse against her brother. Her family returned to the Dominican Republic without a word to her - she learned of their disappearance from a friend.
Jason - Steadfast even in the face of the odds stacked against him, Jason’s prior school experience was of teachers ignoring him or worse - telling him he could never succeed.
Yasmine - With her hardened outer shell, Yasmine hovers on the edge of making some really big mistakes. Two of her brothers have been in and out of the justice system and a third dropped out of school. She has never met her father.
A public but independent middle school, UCAP is the only school in the nation that gives at-risk students - students who would likely quit school otherwise - the chance to complete three years of study in two, by dramatically improving their academic and social skills.
Hotchner's film also captures the fierce determination of Robert DeBlois, UCAP’s founder and director. DeBlois actively runs the school despite his physical limitations as a quadriplegic - the result of a diving accident while in college. The film depicts a highly dedicated teaching staff and a non-traditional learning environment that includes efforts to engage families in their children’s education.
UCAP serves students from Providence, Central Falls, and Cranston, Rhode Island. Rob DeBlois, Director, lives in Seekonk, MA. Also prominently featured is DeBlois’ assistant Lynn Prentiss of Providence, and school social worker Albert Lemos of Cumberland.
Accelerating America took Special Jury Prize for documentaries at the Seattle International Film Festival “…for capturing the inspiration of the subject and the humanistic heart of the film.”