Personal Statement is a documentary that premiered at AFI DOCS this month in Washington, DC. The documentary is about four students striving to attend college. However, they are surrounded with low efforts to help them accomplish their goal of attending college. This is because of the high gap between a lack of guidance counselors to help these high school students transition to college. Out of the four students in the film, ATM gets three to share their story. Karoline, Enoch, and Andrew go in deep about their burdens with life and the truth about what society tells them. Christine, the fourth film subject went through the some of the same challenges as a youth leader and aspiring college student. The film was directed by Juliane Dressner, edited by Eddie Martinez, and produced by Beth.
ATM: When did you decide to be a part of this documentary?
Karoline: I was a youth leader four years ago. I met Juliane as she went around filming. I recorded a video and she became shocked by my story. I was not only talking about me but for other people who cannot have their story heard. She asked to film and walk with me and I told her yes even though I was nervous
ATM: Your life story deals with a lot of heavy information. How did you obtain comfortability to let us in?
Karoline: To be honest I never felt the need to get comfortable. I am an open book. I do not feel the need to let anyone in, however, it is about people letting me in. In the beginning, I felt comfortable because I do not usually take the initiative to talk to people to let them know what I go through. You can ask anyone about me staying to myself when I am handling things. I had a supervisor on top of me to remind me there is a change I need to make. The minute I met them they were already in.
ATM: In the documentary, you implemented a lot of conversation about your sexuality. As a woman, homosexual, and Hispanic, you a minority three times. The United States puts you at the bottom of the barrow repeatedly. Even if you try to become free or overcome one of these minorities you have two more to fight. Ouch! Explain how you maneuver through life with these three obstacles?
Karoline: I am really honest about who I am. I defend my community when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Every time I go out I think to myself I hope I do not get attacked because of who I am. I am already not welcomed here because I am an immigrant. Also, I am not welcomed here because of the way I dress and what I like. I remind myself I do not live for people. The sorrow and sadness only affect me. Every day I wake up I think it is going to be a good day and wonder whether I will be accepted by my people or not.
ATM: You mentioned in the documentary being suspended from school over 29 times. Did you ever foreshadow this day right now as we speak?
Karoline: No, (laughs). I was a horrible student. I had over 29 suspensions, but I had reasons. I was bullied in middle school. High school was not my thing. The boys attacked me because I dressed like a dude. The boys felt very uncomfortable in my presence. I grew up so fast in high school. It was nothing I was waiting for, it just happened. Today I am proud of who I am, but I miss who I used to be. I am caught between two worlds because there are things people need to know about me that I do not know how to express yet. I am still really trying to figure out who I am.
ATM: Thanks, Karoline. Enoch. What is your perspective on the college counselor gap?
Enoch: I think this is ridiculous. In high school, I realized it was super stressful for me to try to get into college. I got to experience with my fellow peers of what they were going through. I needed some help. I hope that the film influences people to put in a reform for more guidance counselors,
ATM: As you wrote your personal statement for college. Was it surreal for you to put all the troubled memories and experiences into words on paper for college?
Enoch: Oh goodness! (Laughs). My personal statement was about my mom and how I grew up with her. I felt as if I were in shambles. I did not know what was happening. College was literally around the corner. What will I do with my life? I did not know what I was going to do with my life. Everything was everywhere. Then I have to write this small piece about my life on this sheet of paper.
ATM: From your mother lacking the responsibility to raise you at a particular moment in your life to moving in with your sister and niece, what type of man have you become today?
Enoch: I have become very stronger mentally and spiritually. It gets overwhelming through this whole process. It really takes you down and knocks you off your structure. I am trying and looking for self-enrichment. I have grown so much healthier with this experience and all the people I have met.
ATM: Thanks, Enoch. Andrew. Why did you decide to participate in this film as a youth leader for aspiring college students?
Andrew: At first, I do not know I was going to be a part of the film. I knew I wanted to do more than help myself, which was to help others around me. People around me needed help like in my school and in my class. I want to learn things to teach my children, grandchildren, and people in other generations.
ATM: What is your viewpoint on higher education/college in your state of New York?
Andrew: I feel we live in a country and state that makes you believe you need to go to college to be successful in life. Although this might not be the case for many families. I hear it all the time, “Oh, you cannot get this job if you do not go to college or get a degree.” People have told me this numerous times. I am an art major. People say without a degree in art I cannot do much and money is not guaranteed. I knew that higher education was for me and it was not an option. I was not going to stop.
ATM: You and other students are getting taught about famed and renowned artists that did not even attend art school. It does not make sense to tell a student or anyone they cannot make it in life or be successful if the system that is providing them with the education teaches them from the perspective of legends that never went to art school. OMG! I just described the American college/higher education system in a nutshell.
Andrew: This interview was different and good. You wrote these question down before you came?
ATM: No, I pulled them straight from my mind as we spoke. I am serious.
Andrew: Wow, this was a deep conversation and deep questions.
Personal Statement follows four aspiring college students living in New York. Writing their personal statement allowed them to change over time and gave them the strength to overcome their struggles.