These five short films are part of a public media initiative supported by Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis. Can’t Hold Me Back, I Really Want to Make It, Immigrant High, Baby Mama High, and Skipping Up collectively showcase a diverse array of determined Latino adolescents, from Oakland to Detroit, New York to San Antonio, who have all struggled to overcome challenges — gang violence, drugs, poverty, young motherhood, and language barriers — as they keep their eyes on the prize: a high school diploma.

Can’t Hold Me Back
Directed by Betty Bastidas and Madeleine Bair

As Detroit teen Fernando Parraz, an accomplished rapper and budding filmmaker, aims to become the first in his family to earn a high school diploma — his ticket out of the struggles of inner-city poverty and violence — he finds support from an unlikely figure: his father, a former gangster who has suffered the costs of his own mistakes.


Skipping Up
Directed by Jim Mendiola and Faith Radle

Follows a group of Texas eighth graders in the Middle School Partners Program, a successful dropout-prevention project that helps students who were previously behind catch up quickly. Participants have seen their chances of dropping out fall from 90% to 10% and it’s generated national interest as a model for schools with significant Latino populations.


I Really Want to Make It
Directed by Ray Telles and Angela Reginato

Sharon Montano of Oakland decides to go back to school at age 20 after several years of substance abuse and other struggles. When she discovers Civicorps Academy, where she meets other young people who have gone through similar rough situations, she finally gets another shot at a high school diploma — and a future.


Baby Mama High
Directed by Heather Ross

It’s the last few weeks of high school for Yessenia, a soft-spoken senior with two small daughters and a boyfriend who’d rather she stay at home than go to school. Yessenia’s forced to choose: stand up for herself and her daughters, or give in to expectation. Watch >


Immigrant High
Directed by Xochitl Dorsey

Immigrant teens find face discrimination, language barriers, unfamiliar cultural traditions — while dealing with the changes all teens struggle with. Many give up on school. Immigrant High takes us into the halls of Pan American International High School in Queens, New York, a school that aims to give its Latino students a place to belong and excel.