Case Studies

POV Season 26 | American Graduate Films Campaign:
American Promise & Brooklyn Castle


An Image Frome Where Soldiers Come From

Brooklyn Castle & American Promise


The Campaign

Working closely with filmmakers Katie Dellamaggiore, Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson,  and their teams,  POV implemented a national campaign to complement CPB’s ongoing AMERICAN GRADUATE INITIATIVE (AGI) that highlights remedies to the dropout crisis in American high schools. The campaign leveraged the national broadcast of two award-winning films - BROOKLYN CASTLE and AMERICAN PROMISE - to target young people, educators, policymakers, parents and caretakers, to inspire discussions around and solutions to the opportunity gap between the typical student and those of color or lower socioeconomic background. Comprehensive surveys were used to measure participant knowledge of issues and awareness gained. 96% of all survey respondents reported an increase in awareness and knowledge of issues raised in the films.




Distribute and manage $150,000 to 17 public television stations across the country for new content creation and high profile regional activities.

Station grantees held 66 events and produced 10 original programs for local communities. After viewing the films, 70% of participants reported that the issue of black male achievement is more important than ever and 81% noted they would discuss the issues with friends/family.

Coordinate screenings, panels and discussions with partner organizations, including screenings on the OVEE platform with AGI partners.

195 partner events were held across the country, attracting 17,014 attendees. 82% of partner event organizers reported that the event fostered a greater understanding of the issues raised in the program. 71% believe that the event raised the community profile of the host organization.

Produce video modules, discussion guides, lesson plans and screening guides for community groups and educators.

5,475 resource materials were distributed. 66% of students were compelled to take more responsibility for their education and 73% of teachers said they wanted to learn more about how to support black male development.

Implement press and promotional campaign, develop an earned media campaign and coordinate a satellite media tour.

National coverage reached 45 million readers and 765 million online users; the satellite media tour garnered a cumulative audience of 2.6 million. Advertisement purchases resulted in approximately 39 million impressions.


Select Events

High profile regional activities targeted specific audiences resulting in the development of new partnerships and increased local involvement around critical education issues.

Policymakers: POV, with Rada Films and the Rabin Group, presented American Promise at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill. The Honorable Marcia L. Fudge made opening remarks; filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson participated in a Q&A panel with David Johns, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. POV, including both American Promise and Brooklyn Castle filmmakers, also participated in "Talking Transition", a community engagement initiative following the election of NYC's new mayor to engage New Yorkers in discussion about the city's most pressing issues.

Educators & Students: WTVI of North Carolina deepened existing partnerships and formed critical connections when the City of Charlotte Mayor's Mentoring Alliance and Generation Nation Youth Council held a half-day screening and discussion event where youth reflected on the drop-out crisis and explored roles students can play in closing the achievement gap.

Parents: In January, KCPT in Kansas City, MO in partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Education, UMKC Black Studies Program, and UMKC Urban Education Research Center held a screening and panel discussion for parents led by the chair of the Urban Research Center. The dialogue sparked ideas and partnerships, resulting in the City Council of Kansas City, Missouri, passed Resolution No. 140146 recognizing KCPT and UMKC for connecting the community with the film and providing meaningful discussions around the issue of black male achievement.


Tuned into broadcast premiere events


At station and partner events

Held across the country


Across the country



Print and online

Televised and radio


Visitors to POV film companion sites



“Wonderful and eye opening, makes me question my student population’s struggles regarding targeting bias. I will question the way we look at student issues and the equity in treatment of these issues and the need for a team of those close to the student to have a dialogue about what is best for the whole child, not just academics.”

– Melissa Jaroszewski, teacher, North Carolina

“We get to know these boys and their families in a truly intimate way…This film offers an inside look at two families of color the everyday challenges and choices they face…The door for critical discussion for all of us is left wide open…Fascinating.”

– Anderson Cooper, “AC 360,” CNN


The Films

American Promise (2014)
by Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson

American Promise spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through Dalton, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.

Downloadable materials:
Discussion Guide | Workshops & Toolkits | Lesson Plan | Reading List

Brooklyn Castle (2013)
by Katie Dellamaggiore
This public-school powerhouse in junior high chess competitions has won more than 30 national championships, the most of any school in the country. Its 85-member squad boasts so many strong players that the late Albert Einstein, a dedicated chess maven, would rank fourth if he were on the team. Most astoundingly, I.S. 318 is a Brooklyn school that serves mostly minority students from families living below the poverty line. Brooklyn Castle is the exhilarating story of five of the school’s aspiring young players and how chess became the school’s unlikely inspiration for academic success.

Downloadable materials:
Discussion Guide | Workshops & Toolkits | Lesson Plan | Reading List


Key Campaign Partners

Darcy Heusel & Alexandra Pearson - Picture Motion; Khaleaph Luis; Stephanie Bleyer - Six Foot Chipmunk; Natasha Logan - Logan Projects; Shaady Salehi & Sahar Driver - Active Voice; and Kali Holloway.


Left: Where Soldiers Come From by Heather Courtney (POV 2011)