By Andrés Feliciano. Andrés is a City Year New Orleans ’13 alum. He’s producer & music director of Paper City, a documentary film and educational program about the school-to-prison pipeline inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
Akil asked the students about their dreams, what challenges they faced, and how they saw the future. What they said shocked us: these kids were dealing with the effects of crumbling infrastructure, high unemployment, a 50% dropout rate, drugs, gangs, incarceration, and violence on an everyday basis. And it wasn’t isolated: this is happening in cities across the country. Despite all this, these kids were as bright, brilliant, and hopeful as anyone you’ll ever meet.
Akil wanted to make something that could help, and I joined him as Producer. With the help of community leaders—teachers, law officers, activists, and politicians—we aimed to deliver a message to the youth of Holyoke: you have power, and your power will change the world. Paper City was born.
In 2012, I tutored at a local middle school as we finished the rough cut of Paper City. At a City Year presentation in Oberlin, I learned that over 1 million students were dropping out of U.S. high schools annually, and that those who drop out are 8x more likely to be incarcerated than those who graduate. This was a major problem in nearby Cleveland, and mirrored what we had seen in Holyoke. It seemed City Year’s mission to address this dropout crisis went hand in hand with our mission in Paper City. I decided to serve in my hometown, New Orleans.
As we officially release Paper City’s pilot program this school year, we would like to invite all City Year AmeriCorps members, senior corps, staff, alumni, and partners to access the film, curriculum, and website. We welcome your feedback on how to make this the best possible tool it can be for educators everywhere.
City Year was integral to our realization of Paper City as an educational program, and Paper City helped me be a better AmeriCorps member. By helping future corps members inform their service with Paper City’s social justice framework, we can multiply the positive impact City Year has in communities everywhere.
Please check out the Paper City pilot site here, and let us know what you think.
Yours in service, with hope,
Andrés “Mr. F” Feliciano
City Year New Orleans ’13