UNCG was the first in the state to experience the powerful message behind Adam and Jaye Fenderson’s documentary, “Unlikely.” This documentary highlighted the need to support low income and first generation students who need guidance as they go through the college journey.
The film “Unlikely” showcased the lives of several traditional and nontraditional college students who came across barriers as they worked hard to obtain their degree for a better future.
Regardless of the income tax bracket that a student is considered to belong to, the Admissions Office is where many students hope to receive an acceptance. More students might become a part of those unlikely to be accepted than those admitted.
Once a student is admitted, college students- especially first generation and low income college students- most likely need the support of their college, which benefits from student retention and graduation rates.
The film takes us around the country to Los Angeles, California Akron, Ohio; Boston, Massachusetts; Catonsville, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. One of the students who is featured in “Unlikely” is Clarissa, a wife and mother in Akron, Ohio, who decided to go back to school after a prior interest in attending Daymar College because of the commercials on television.
Eventually, she attended school full time at the University of Akron, while her husband was the only source of income. She made the decision to obtain a degree because she wanted to achieve her dream and provide better experiences for her and her family.
The documentary focuses on men of color who have helped education in their towns. Freeman A. Hrabowski III of Birmingham, Alabama was geared towards education by his father, a teacher and steel worker, along with his mother who taught math and english.
In “Unlikely,” Hrabowski III showed his friendly and comfortable dynamic with the students as the president of UMBC. He expressed his admiration for diversity at his school and how the current college system is. He states, “It’s so difficult to bring change about education,” while in the United States the low percentage of college graduates places us at the bottom of the list compared to other countries.
Back in Ohio, the Arkon native LeBron James was featured. His motivation to create LeBron Family Foundation at 19 exemplifies his care for “the lives of young children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives.” I Promise School, was founded on July 30, 2018, and is a great example of a school providing to at-risk children. Providing these children clothes, bicycles, computers and a scholarship to the University of Akron is motivation to continue their education.
After the two day screening, educators and UNCG students met with filmmaker Adam Fenderson. Fenderson and his wife are founders of Three Frame Media, a television and film production company. The gathering occurred in EUC Claxton with an abundance of thought provoking questions, such as, “What was the desire to make films in higher education and talk about issues that students are facing?”
Fenderson shares that his wife helped with the initiation of the documentary, as she was the one who went to Columbia. She wanted to work in film and television but was offered a job as an admissions counselor after she graduated.
“How do you find the students in the film?” The main focuses in the beginning were Akron, Ohio and Los Angeles, California. After talking with individuals in the housing authority, the Fendersons were led to Clarissa and her family. They also looked at programs where they eventually filmed on their campuses leading to the request to meet with students who they could film.
The final question that might have been apparent after viewing the documentary was “Was diversity a part of the documentary?” -No, the diversity of the cast was not an intentional choice. “The story is not directly related to the color of their skin,” Fenderson stated.
The idea of “Unlikely,” almost named “At Risk,” was to highlight the flaws of college education and how some students seen as at-risk will work to overcome obstacles in their path.
Thanks to programs such as UNCG Guarantee and Student Support Services, low income and first generation students at UNCG can fight to obtain their bachelor’s degree.
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