UP Schools
University Prep offers a robust college-preparatory program serving both students in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx and those from all over New York City. With a 98% graduation rate, 100% college acceptance rate, and a 99% parent approval rating, they are among the highest performing schools in the Bronx.
Producer: Cody Wambolt
Director: Alex Sandman
Director of Photography: Jonathan Brysh
Additional Cinematography: John Kopec, Jamin Burdick, Matt Derderian, Jon Martinez, Taylor Pelletier
Editor: Alex Sandman
Key Grip: Taylor Pelletier & Jess Pappayiannis
Sound: Taylor Pelletier
First AC: Jon Martinez
Charter schools face many challenges: fundraising, staff recruitment/retention, facility improvements, and — of course — getting students to graduate and go to college are just a few. Being a charter school in a low income neighborhood in the South Bronx makes things even more difficult. Despite all the challenges, UP Public Schools has a remarkable track record. 95% of their students graduate on time and 100% of graduates go onto some form of higher education! These numbers not only far outshine the surrounding region, but they are some of the best in the whole nation.
No small part of their success would be possible without mentioning their tight knit community and a culture built on a strong foundation of mentorship — and that’s the story they wanted to tell to the world.
UP Schools knew that recruiting, fundraising, and support would all increase if they were able to shine a light on their community and culture in a powerful way. After a period of story discovery, we decided to approach this project from two perspectives, and two films: The staff/parents, and the students (aka adults and kids).
We spent an entire week of pre-production interviewing dozens of staff, parents, and students in order to identify the right characters for these films. Everyone we spoke to was incredible. Choosing the final subjects was a very difficult process, but we couldn’t be happier with the end result. Each person we interacted with had a genuine love and appreciation for the UP Schools community and we think that comes through in the final films. We focused on two mentor/mentee student relationships in the “Day in the Life” piece and it’s one of the films we are most proud of to date!