By Charly SHELTON
For anyone who has or knows a high school child, complaining goes with the territory. Complaining about friends, work, school, being awake, fashion, backpacks and anything else. The unceasing grumbling eventually is dismissed as the languishing of a teenager.
But some of these teenagers are ready to elaborate. There are issues with stress levels being overwhelming, homework piling up, teachers being too demanding and other complaints of teenage life that they feel fall on deaf ears. The response of these teens is “The Fire House Project,” a documentary film put together by the high school student volunteers at The Fire House youth center. It is their hope that the medium of film will allow their messages to be taken seriously. And now they are ready to screen the film for the community.On Monday, Sept. 28 at the La Crescenta Library at 6:30 p.m., student representatives from The Fire House, Prom Plus Club and others involved with the film will hold a screening and panel discussion to let the community know their side of things.
“The teenagers are the ones who originated the idea about coming up with a response to [another documentary film, ‘Race to Nowhere’],” said Paul Royer, licensed social worker who will act as the support liaison for the kids on the panel. “There’s a lot of negativity in [‘Race to Nowhere’] about problems that kids are having. The Fire House wanted to come up with a response about what’s going on in this community. And not just the problems, but what are their solutions, what are some of the good things, what are some of the resources that are out there both for the kids and for the families to try and cope with the stresses that are coming at them. So it’s a very healthy and productive idea.”
The film will be shown with scheduled breaks to discuss the topics as they are presented. There will be a panel discussion with students from Prom Plus Club and The Fire House who are hosting the event as a joint venture. Film interviewees Jessy Shelton, Brianna Beck and Dylan Sylvester will also be on the panel.
“I think it’s going to offend some people. The things are talked about … I feel that [some teachers] will get offended,” said Beck. “[But] I think they need to be offended so that things change.”
All involved are hoping that the film will prompt changes in the way teens are treated and how the community can respond with help. Opening channels of communication, Royer said, is the best way to achieve these goals and address issues before they get to a more serious level.
“I feel communication is the number one [thing],” said Quinn Kelly, historian and publicist of Prom Plus Club, adding that a “communication block” is what has been hindering progress. “As long as [adults and parents] are open to hearing our opinions and ideas, I think we can be effective in making some type of change.”
The film interviews were shot over a period from 2012 to 2013 and edited into one cohesive film. The film has made the rounds with local community groups and fine-tuned here and there to get the students’ messages across accurately. Shelton is now the only interviewee who appears in the film and is currently in high school. The film, being three years old, still rings true because “not much has changed,” Shelton said. But “The Fire House Project” will need to be updated as the years go by to stay current with issues facing students.
“I know that it’s not necessarily like there have been any big changes since we were sophomores but at the same time things are changing,” said Sylvester, another interviewee and a recent graduate from Crescenta Valley High. He added that the film will appeal to an ever-changing audience as teens make their way through high school.
“You’re only high school parents as long as your kid is in high school,” he said. “Because that changes so much, other things will need to change too.”
Beck added, “A lot of parents use the excuse for pushing their kids so hard is, ‘Well, when I was in high school…’ but that was so long ago that it’s completely different. It’s good to let the parents know what it’s like now and if [that information is continually updated], it will keep the new class of high school parents informed of how the school system is changing.”