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Cody Perkins and Chris Johnson.

join the discussion: What are your reactions and thoughts after viewing Country Boys?  What most struck you about the struggles of Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins --  two boys  coming of age in eastern Kentucky's Appalachian hills?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I don't think PBS or David Sutherland had any idea how Chris Johnson and Country Boys would affect so many of us. Your web site says to contact David Sutherland if we are interested in helping him. I have tried David Sutherland and The David School twice and have not gotten a reply. At this point I am concerned that Chris Johnson never even received all of his emails because the web site was having communication problems on the-th of Jan.The web site said that Chris would respond in 24 hours to his emails. He did not respond, and my concern is that he did not get his emails. I don't care about him not responding to me, my concern is that Chris knows there are thousands of us out there who were truly moved by him and his spirit and wanted him to know that we cared about him, that he was not dropped on his face after the show and just forgotten and there are people out there who want to help him but cannot find a contact to reach Chris by.

Karen (Kip) Vreeland
New Smyrna Beach, FL

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Chris does indeed know that there has been an enormous response to the program and to his story. Email letters have been forwarded to him and he is interested in responding to some of the questions. For a short period of time, however, he was away and unable to access email. Thousands of letters have been sent in to this Discussion area about the "Country Boys" series. Unfortunately, we are not able to publish all of them but there are some 200 posted to date here and in the Chris and Cody letters sections. Viewer letters expressing interest in helping Chris are being sent to filmmaker David Sutherland who is handling these queries and will be directly in touch with the letter writer. Mr. Sutherland's addresses are listed below on this page.

Dear FRONTLINE,

When Mitzi resigned from her position as the David school principal, the audience was left without a clue as to the reason(s) why. As a viewer of the show, I need closure!

James Brown
Decatur, IL

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Mitzi left The David School four years ago to pursue an opportunity to work at a public school system's alternative school. During her many years at The David School she touched many lives and the school administration says "those students will never forget the blessing she was to them."

Dear FRONTLINE,

My wife and I are both teacher educators and we became transfixed by the lives of Cody and Chris as each of them navigated a complex set of social and educational circumstances. I was enormously impressed with the concern shown for these two boys by the teachers and administrators of the David School.

This documentary was compelling television and in the stories of these two young men there are many lessons for educators of teenagers. I am encouraging my graduate students to check out your very informative web site.

Paul Sproll
Providence, Rhode Island

Dear FRONTLINE,

This show is what TV was invented for, not just entertainment, but truthful, passionate, meaningful stories. Great Music, Fantastic filmwork weaved together... Excellent.

mark means
grand island, ne

Dear FRONTLINE,

What an unusual and riveting documentary. I stumbled across it earlier this week, and a few days later, an older woman who is a bit of a mentor to me mentioned it.

As women, it is incredibly moving to see so deeply into the psyches of these young men, to see the struggles, and the strengths and flaws that we usually see only in intimate relationships with men who are already adults and perhaps not quite so vulnerable, or not vulnerable in the same way. Really tears your heart out, character flaws and all.

The struggle between belief in oneself and self-sabotage is universal and I don't think the film would have been as powerful without the leisurely pace; "The Decalogue" comes to mind. There is a depth of understanding and experience that occurs when a film takes its time. Thanks for taking that risk.

Susan Zakin
Tucson, AZ - Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT!!!

Chris and Cody took me back to growing up in the bronx,in the 60s & 70s( yes,we were poor/lower-middleclass/ but so was everyone else!!)...

what really impressed me most...was Cody's faith,GOD is really going to use him for something special..

(i believe he would be a great preacher!!)

I HOPE THEY DO A FOLLOW UP IN A FEW YEARS!!

ps..i spoke to my brother yesterday morning (he's in Conn.)he told me he watched the show,so,did my sister (she's in NY)and me, im in california...(yet, we havent spoken to each other since Christmas!!)

plus,cody father-in-law (forget his name) his music was great!!I BET YOU NASHVILLE (WAS ALREADY)CALLING!!!

tom mccarthy
orange, ca.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you Frontline for the journey you gave me the last three nights. The profound situations these two young men were thrown into is incomprehensible to me.I have great respect for so many featured in the movie, but I'm always going to root extra hard for Chris. Seeing him in a cap and gown will be my t.v. moment of the year I'm sure. Cody was able to give this 38 year old new insight into faith and religion and I am thankful. I also feel that Mitzi and the rest of the David School staff set the bar for their professions and are truly special people. Good luck to Chris and Cody, may they both find what they're looking for. Thanks again.

Paul Fratrik
Chalfont, Pa

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Many viewers have asked for information about helping Chris with financing college, etc. For those who are interested, please contact filmmaker David Sutherland at:
drsutherland@earthlink.net

or

David Sutherland
P.O. Box 163
Waban, MA 02468

Dear FRONTLINE,

Great story.I hope you put it on again in the future.I just wanted to comment on the poster that remarked on Chris'weight.Can't this person see that Chris has enough problems to deal with? Chris doesn't need someone commenting on what his body looks like when you can see he has such a beautiful heart.I think he's a good looking kid.J

Robin Taylor
Lockbourne, OH

Dear FRONTLINE,

Tell Ray, that he should make a CD, I would buy it!!!! He sounds like Waylon Jennings!!! What a talent!

mARY NEILAN
woodbury, minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline, David Sutherland, Cody and Chris,I am a high school counselor and work with young adults who are struggling with overwhelming problems every day. Your story "Country Boys" really gave me a chance to look at the difference in Chris and Cody because of the support that Cody received from Liz and his church that wasn't in place for Chris. I cried more at the graduations of these 2 young men than I usually do for my own students who mean the world to me. Thanks for bringing this story to PBS. I watched every second even though I stayed awake for hours afterwards thinking about the obstacles Chris and Cody had to overcome. They are awesome! I hope that the future will be full of positive experiences. Please don't give up on trying to obtain more education so that you will have the choice about your future career. Thank you again for sharing your lives with us.

Cannon Hummer
Chesapeake, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Wonderfully done!

This is reality TV as it should be.

Toufong Vang
St. Paul, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

The advertisement for this program intrigued my husband and I. We called our sons in to watch this program because we have one son with ADHD and serious learning disabilities and one son who is far surpassing most of the children in his class. I wanted both sons to see how hard some people work in the face of such turmoil.

Our children need to know and understand the lives of all different kinds of people in their world. I am so proud of these young men. They did not let their environments dictate who they would become. Of course its hard, nothing that worthy in life comes easy. I applaud the staff members of The David School for their understanding of the hardships of these children and yet marching ever forward. Without all of you believing in them, I'm not sure they would have completed anything. I, myself, stay home and don't work so that I can help my 12 year old learn how to complete his academics and learn life skills. It is very hard financially and emotionally.

I wish all the best to both Chris and Cody. I hope Chris keeps pushing for the college entrance, he is so bright. And Cody has created an unbelievable life for himself. I would like to say thank you to Mr. Sutherland for seeing the incredibly significant message in this story. This is real life, put out there for all the world to see.

Armstrong Elisabeth
Coatesville, Pa.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was moved by the story of Chris & Cody. My husband grew up in a very rural part of Michigan. His mother & father were so poor, but that home was filled with tremendous love, faith & support. Till the day my mother-in-law passed away, she would proudly proclaim "All six of my children graduated from high school". All six are successful, kind, and accomplished adults.

Education is the key to a successful future, but we also need what the David School and people like Liz provide, when our families cannot do so. I was so impressed with the staff at the David School....such PATIENCE, love & guidance! I wish there was a David School in every neighborhood!

Janice Gray
St Clair Shores, Michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

I worried about Chris and Cody every night. After I watched Frontline I found it difficult to fall asleep at night...worrying about Chris and Cody and the people in their lives. I have taught students with behavioral disorders in special education for a number of years. I stopped teaching 2 years ago to stay home with my children. Your show brought me back to the days of constant concern, but now it was for these two young men. I still find myself thinking about Amy, Chris' sister. I hope she is thriving in school and at home. Her story about the kids hosing her down broke my heart. My thoughts are with everyone that opened up their lives for us to see. Thank you.

Caroline Driscoll
Caldwell, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Wow, what a bare bones, completely natural look at reality in this region of our country. I must say I dearly love the area, but I would not want to live there.

My grandfather was from Morehead, KY and my grandmother from West Virginia. No two finer, lovely, caring people could be found - and they loved their homeland. However, in the late 1920's when my father was 3 years old they made a bold move to get out and give their children a chance for change.

What was really striking to me was how different the people in this film are from my relatives. There was no welfare or SSI for my family and even if there were, they were too proud and too enterprising to use it. But in the case of Chris' family, it seemed to be a God given right to collect.

Cody and Chris have the chance for change - everyone has the chance for change if they choose to act on it. But with Chris I sense a reluctance to rise above his comfort zone. I was completely taken with him but found myself thinking "he is his own worst enemy" at times even with all the encouragement from teachers and school staff. Perhaps that is his youth and maybe he will overcome it with maturity. I do hope so.

This film was so real it was as if I could reach into the TV and carry on a conversation with the boys. I do pray that Cody and Chris make good lives out of all the tragedy and heartache they have endured in their young lives.

To David Sutherland: Keep up the good work filming real people in real places.

Bonnie (Lowe) Hartley
Fort Wayne, IN

Dear FRONTLINE,

I have always considered myself rather tough and unemotional toward others problems, but Chris' story moved me so. I have never taken the time to respond like this, but I feel so touched by Chris and the life he was given.

Even with the terrible upbringing and the lack of love and support, Chris has hope and tried. He could easily have turned bad and taken a path of crime, drugs, or violence, but he did not. Kids like Chris are what this country needs to focus its resources on to help them. Often times the bad kids and those who don't care get the attention and assistance.

Chris needs a mentor. He needs a chance. It seems that he has started to give up and lose his dreams of school and a better life. There are so many who can help this young man and just encourage him and guide him. He has the energy, motivation and ability. Now we as a society need to step in and help.

I want for him to succeed. I want him to be happy. I want him to know that he can do it.

LARRY SAVAGE
stone lake, wi

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posted jan. 9, 2006

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