A Family of Many Nations: The Story of White Center Heights Elementary School
by Todd Coughlin
color, 54 minutes, 2003
This is a hopeful story of the changing face of education in America. At White Center Heights Elementary School, located just south of Seattle, Washington, the students speak twenty-seven different languages and come from fifty different countries. Eighty percent of the students speak no English at home and ninety percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. As schools grow more diverse across the country, White Center Heights appears more as a window into the future of education rather than an anomaly.
In fact, what is more unique is the positive approach to the daily cultural challenges. Here, differences are embraced and conflicts resolved. In addition to tackling issues such as poverty, and language barriers, school staff are faced with many young children who have already experienced the trauma of war and loss. From countries such as Somalia, Iraq, Eritrea, Laos, Vietnam, and El Salvador, the student population is a reflection of the rise in immigration of refugee families from war-torn areas.
Filmed with no outside narration, A Family Of Many Nations presents children, teachers, parents, local residents, and education experts talking openly about the school and home experience of students at White Center Heights. Emerging as the instrumental force behind the school's dynamic atmosphere is the principal, Greta Salmi; she demonstrates how to lead our students with empathy and intelligence in a complex new world. The microcosm of White Center Heights serves as an inspiration and an example for the kinds of opportunities which exist for developing successful, diverse communities in the 21st Century.
Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Des Moines Cinema, Washington, 2003