"Being sensitive to the issues at hand while concentrating on capturing the story for the screen was quite often overwhelming because the kids were dealing with life changing issues. The most mentally strenuous was shooting the Impact support groups. Teenagers today are forced to deal with a world that is more violent and vindictive then ever. As I listened and filmed their stories, I felt the love and support offered by Dr. Bogue and the others in the room as they discussed the issues." - Maria Murillo, Unit Director
Fairfax High has a policy of actively addressing the life issues of teens primarily through the school's Impact Educational Support Group Curriculum, known as Impact. Created by a federally funded program to achieve a drug free school and community, Impact trains teachers to facilitate support groups for teens. The groups are a safe, protected place where students can openly discuss and confront any situation they are faced with -- from drug addiction to alcoholic or abusive parents. A full-time social worker from Cedar Sinai Hospital and two psych interns from both USC and UCLA Master's Degree programs participate in the program as well. Several ethnic specific agencies (i.e. Korean Youth Center, El Nido, Asian Pacific Volunteers, etc.) also work with students and families who need services.
Dean Bogue and Karla
In Senior Year, Karla, Jean, and Maria are all members of Impact groups. Students "sign up" for a group on their own, or may be referred by a parent, counselor or teacher. If they are caught on campus using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs, they are mandated to attend. Kids with serious drug problems are referred to external programs. Groups run for a ten-week period, with one session per week, and students can stay in the program as long as they want. One grief group has been running for three years.
The simple premise of the program at Fairfax is that kids gain awareness and develop skills through working together. Carolee Bogue, Dean of Students, who facilitates eleven different groups each week, described some students as being "a cup with no bottom," and that participation and learning within the group helps them grow a bottom or foundation. Bogue has several academic degrees but credits her 14 years of training with Re-Parenting pioneer and mentor, Dr. Eileen Paris, as the source of her success in her work with adolescents and family systems. Carolee came to Fairfax in 1978 to head the Drama department until she was promoted to Administrative Dean in 1985. In 1989, she was promoted to coordinate the training of Impact facilitators for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
The success of Impact goes beyond the campus with the majority of students improving in school and gaining strength in their lives. They are more comfortable with who they are and don't allow abuse. They find a language for their feelings, develop self-respect, and are committed to the process of change. Impact is an important step in giving schools a more relevant role in the lives of teens.