School officials are inviting the public to view the film, following a tour of Twin Valley High School to see the work accomplished by volunteers over the summer, at their open house on Tuesday, September 15. The open house is scheduled from 6 to 7 pm, and the screening of the film will begin shortly after 7 pm.
“Shout it Out” is a film that explores issues teens deal with every day and, unlike many one-size-fits-all teen programs, “Shout it Out” specifically addresses the reality of teen life in Vermont. The film is based on an original musical based on writings by Vermont high school students. Even the music was written by Vermont teens. The film was shot in Jericho, primarily on location at Mount Mansfield Union High School.
The film follows the story of a group of teens as they confront issues ranging from academic pressure to personal loss. TVHS Principal Frank Spencer says there’s something in the movie for everyone. “Not every theme will apply to every teenager,” Spencer says, “but just about everyone will find something in the film that makes them say ‘Yeah, that happened to me, or that happened to my friend.’”
Some of the issues are universal; nearly every teenager in every school deals with peer pressure and identity issues. But some of the issues are more specific to life in rural Vermont. “One of the characters in the film deals with being the only African-American student in the school,” Spencer says. “That’s classic ‘Vermont.’ That has been our reality here as long as I’ve been here.”
Community member Patty Burke brought “Shout it Out” to the attention of school officials after a school production of “Dog Meets God,” a play that deals with adolescent issues, stirred a controversy among some parents and school board members who objected to the subject matter and language. Some board members expressed concern that the subject matter was presented with no opportunity for students and parents to “opt out,” and that there was no discussion or follow-up with counselors.
When “Shout it Out” is shown to TVHS students on September 17, the screening will be followed by a discussion with the film’s director, Bess O’Brien, and one of the actresses in the film. After the discussion, students will break up into advisory groups to discuss the issues further. Spencer says he sees the discussions as ongoing. “They won’t have time to discuss everything the first day,” he says. “But whatever they don’t have a chance to discuss, they’ll put off until the following Wednesday.”
If a general issue or concern arises from the discussions, Spencer says, school officials may take a closer look. “We may look at what we can do to solve one of these problems,” he says, “or what we can do to make it easier to communicate about what we should be paying attention to.”
Spencer says communication is one of the key goals, and one of the reasons he’s hoping a broad spectrum of the community will turn out Tuesday evening. “Our objective is to build a better understanding between teenagers and adults, because they interact in a lot of ways,” Spencer says. “We interact daily as a school, but community members interact with teenagers everywhere, from the MOOver to the park.”
Although some adults may find teenagers, and their issues and concerns, mystifying, Spencer says there’s no reason the two “factions” can’t find a common understanding. “All adults were teenagers at one time, dealing with many of the same themes in the movie,” he says. “But we tend to forget what it was like when we become adults. You may correctly believe something a teenager is doing or saying is wrong. But, rather than saying ‘that’s wrong,’ it’s more effective to ask another question and get into a dialogue and discussion so they can figure out why their statement is wrong.”
Many of the issues today’s teens deal with aren’t very different from those their parents confronted when they were in high school. Spencer says he thinks cliques, harassment, and other social issues are the biggest problems that teens struggle with at TVHS. “I think one of the things kids deal with is the belief that they’re the only ones who don’t have a lot of close friends,” he says. “It feels like everyone else has a lot of friends, but they’re loners.”
The film is about 90 minutes long, and the screening is free.