In this special two-part documentary, filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz looks at six different students in different areas of the United States, examining the problems and looking for solutions to the high dropout rate of Latino students. The series airs on two-consecutive Mondays, beginning today, 28 October 2013 at 10 p.m. with a one-hour segment that looks at three girls. The next week, on 4 November 2013 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) the documentary profiles three young men.

In episode 1, we meet Darlene Bustos (Tulsa, Oklahoma), Stephanie Alvarado (in Chicago, Illinois) and Chastity Salas in the South Bronx. Bustos became pregnant just before her sophomore year in high school. She was forced to drop out, but enrolled in a program for at-risk student and her son, Alex, is enrolled in a Head Start program. We don’t, unfortunately, learn much about Alex’s father–at least in his own words.

Alvarado, whose family emigrated from El Salvador,  attends a school that her meager resources and a high crime rate that necessitates metal detectors. Alvarado enters a program called Voices of Youth and her graded improve.

Salas suffers from extreme economic problems: Her family is homeless. Through the Children’s Aid Society, she is able to get counseling about her personal concerns and does graduate from high school.

You might be wondering: What about the Southwest and our Latino population?

That is addressed in the second episode with the boys: Eduardo Corona (San Diego, CA). The other two boys are from different regions with Gustavo Madrigal (Griffin, Georgia) and Juan Bernabe (Lawrence, Massachusetts).

Corona’s family is from Mexico and came to Los Angeles looking for a better education. Madrigal’s family is also from Mexico and his parents are undocumented. Bernabe is from the Dominican Republic, arriving at age 11. During his freshman year, Bernabe came out of the closet as gay.

As with the girls, Corona and Madrigal found help through different programs. Corona became involved in a college preparatory organization, Reality Changers. Madrigal became a DREAM activist and is enrolled in a university that helps undocumented students prepare for college.

Bernabe helped himself by becoming involved in the performing arts (dance competitions) and the student-run newspaper.

This documentary introduces us to the many faces of Latinos in the United States today and their different problems and how they turn to different organizations. No doubt these six young adults were chosen because they are attractive and well spoken. We don’t know how representative they are of their local population. Still, we get to know six honest and intelligent individuals.

One wishes to see how these young adults are doing in seven years as in the popular British documentary.  “The Graduates” reminds us that the high Latino dropout rate isn’t a regional problem; it is a national problem, particularly when one considers that in many states and cities Latinos are the majority and are predicted to become the majority.

“The Graudates/Los Graduados” airs on Monday, 28 October and 4 November 2013 at 10 p.m. on PBS. The program will also be presented in Spanish on the Spanish-language channel V-me and online at PBS.org.

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