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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 was so deeply touched by this documentary. I was born and raised in Southern WV and I know all too well how life is in rural America. Both boys in the movie touched me but Chris really affected me more than you could ever know.

I am a college graduate and I was able to move on from rural America. As I watched, I realized that I complain about life so much and there are so many people who are would give anything to have what I have. I was ashamed of myself because there are so many people less fortunate than I. The church sign said it all for me, "You can't sleep don't count sheep, count your blessings. I thank you for this because I truly look at everything is a different light now. I hope Chris gets to attend college because your determination was truly an inspiration to me!!! Thank you!

Kevin Peters
Columbus, OH

Dear FRONTLINE,

Something about this show made me think about people I know, my friends, family and myself. These two boys could've been a couple classmates, neighbors, aquaintenances. The title says country boys, but I grew up in Michigan and you could find boys just like them here.

Chris of course struck me, because I've had friends in my life that struggled and still struggle like him. As for Cody, my two brothers could take each half of him. I just saw the episode when Chris is driving the U-Haul. I hope that Chris always turns to his faith, because apparently his life wasn't meant to be easy. Cody, I think is definitely on the right path, and I hope he doesn't stray. I'm a 24 year old girl, graduated highschool in 2000. I'm an amateur author and I work a third shift job, that I may lose in a few weeks because of our economy. I live for God, when I'm not going against Him. My life is not easy, who's is? I appreciate stories like Country Boys. It helps seeing lives similiar to yours from an outside perspective. There is hope, when you have faith in God Almighty! Amen.

Emily Alexander
Davison, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was just channel surfing about the time the first episode started, I figured I would watch for a few minutes then move on. 3 nights and 6 hours later I finished. I know a lot of grown men saw some of themselves in those two young men and could identify with it. That was very good quality television, I hope PBS is around for a long time to come.

greg zieber
springfield, oregon

Dear FRONTLINE,

The main character of this was not really Chris or Cody, but their tiny town? I.E..... you could find these same two guys in almost any small town or large city in the US if you looked in the right place.

The whole concept was this "far away place" somehow set-aside from mainstream America.

Had the film profiled two adults and the limited jobs and lifestyles, then the environment would have definitely been crucial. But for teens in today's cable TV/Satellite world teens? No way! Sadly teen across our country get their idea of life and reality from what the watch on TV. It is awful, but true. Cody and Chris(I saw his satellite dish) grew up watching the same junk on TV as did kids in Atlanta or LA.

If the show had done 20 years ago before Cable and Satellite made it out to rural America then you could say yes the teen experience would be quite different in Appalachia, but in today's ""pop culture MTV context"", Chris' life is not one bit different than any US kid growing up in a broken home with bad parents.

The producer could have made the very same film right in South Boston

ed swice
charleston, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Hello,

I volunteered for two summers in the early 1980's at the original David school in Floyd county. I was traveling with a group from Boystown, where I was a student.

My trip to eastern Kentucky was life changing. Danny Greene, a young man at the time taught me how a disciple of Christ should live. His presence of kindness, patience and love was unending.

As a young deliquent from the midwest I learned that my life was blessed in comparison to the poor inhabitants of the those hollars of eastern Kentucky.

What an experience; never to be forgotten.

Thanks to my teacher at Boystown, Rudy Papenfus who took us to work in David those hot summers.

Mark Fritz
Phoenix, Arizona

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Country Boys" should be required viewing in schools once each year beginning in the eighth grade.

David Trousdale
Riverdale, Georgia

Dear FRONTLINE,

I run a nonprofit agency in rural northern California that works with children and youth who live in extreme poverty. Many of our communities are isolated in mountain valleys with few external resources but lots of internal resources among the people who live there. Many of my staff work in continuation high schools.

Your portrait of Chris and Cody rings very true tothe stories of the young people they encounter every day in their work. I have friends who don't believe me when I tell them some of the stories of young people in our community. It truly is another world for them. Your film is a wonderful introduction to this world.

I particularly liked that you just didn't focus on the problems both young men had but also on what their strengths were and that it was focusing on their strengths that helped them get through. This is something we in the business refer to as "positive youth development." The only thing that didn't ring true for me was that I know that there must be massive drug use among these young people yet there is only one instance of this coming up, with Chris. In the lives of the young people we work with drugs are pervasive, especially meth, which does damage to people and communities like you wouldn't believe.

Karin Wandrei
Willits, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

Being a parent of two teen-age children, I found the series to be riveting, open, thought-provoking, gut-wretching and inspiring. I could not stop watching.

If I can offer an anology, for me, "Country Boys" is to television what Springsteen's "Born to Run" is to music, only with real-life people. It moved me in the same way as when I first heard the song. Best wishes for the future for both boys and their families.

Bob DiNallo
Cleveland, OH

Dear FRONTLINE,

I also would like to thank Frontline for introducing these two inspirational guys to us. Reading the emails so far submitted, it appears that Cody and Chris have (at least) the love of the viewing nation.

Cody: what a preacher you would be, especially to your generation. Chris: you are a natural journalist.

dave k
harrisburg, pa

Dear FRONTLINE,

This movie really impacted me ...i mean it gave me hope in graduating . but as for a similar comment you should make another movie but with females.. dealing with issues that are occurring every day in our society like teen pregnancy and the choices of life sex drugs exc.I attend Durham Secondary School in Oshawa and that's what I see everyday Drugs sex and teen pregnancyOne in every 5 girls there either have a baby at home or in there tummy.. iv been there for 4 yrs now and am still in grade 10This story made me believe that Yes there is a chance at life-school..i strongly hope that u continue to make more real life movies like this it open's eyes to what world we really live in. and how god/Jesus and help..or maybe if you guys started introducing this to school not just in U.S but Canada tooi just would like to say thank you again beacuse it made me open up shed a tear and relize im not alone .. it was sad, and real and thats what got to me

thank you again

i hope to see another movie

let me knwo if soo

Rebecca From Oshawa, Ontario Canada

becka
oshawa, ontario, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was a riviting series and well done and we need more of this type of honest depiction of our world.But don't be misled by Chris' glibness. He never finishes any halfway difficult task and blames others for his shortcomings. He's not fit material for any sort of intellectual training even at the most undemanding college. I doubt that he would have the fortitude to stay with any sort of vocational training to the journeyman level. Is this the result of lack of mentoring when younger? Maybe, but it's time to grow up.

Paul April

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a teacher/coach who just retired, after 31 yrs., I felt myself living back through the years of students, who were very similar to Chris and Cody(this area being economically wiped out by loss of textiles and tobacco).

Lack of income and jobs lead to drugs,alcohol, breakdown of family unit. Knowing you have given students chances to succeed is satisfaction-that it may or may not happen is something you get used to as a teacher. It is difficult to focus on goals, when you worry if your house is going to be taken away during the night.

This show is definitely a part of American life that everyone should know and care about. Good luck to the boys.

Laura Surber
Stoneville, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

Bravo to you for broadcasting this program, bravo to David Sutherland for giving this story a voice, and especially bravo to Chris and Cody....

While channel surfing one evening, I stumbled across part one of Country Boys and could NOT turn off the t.v., regardless of bedtime, that night and for the two nights following.

I have read the comments of other viewers, and their thoughts and sentiments echo many of my own, so I won't repeat them. However, I have one big motivator for writing this, and that is to hopefully reach Chris with this message (and any other young person out there who can identify with Chris).

Chris, if you receive this message, I just want you to know how amazing you are. Apart from your formal education you are an intelligent person. That is a gift. Look at all you have accomplished, largely without the kind of support from family that you was your right to have. I write this because I desperately want you to believe in yourself, that you are a worthy person, and 'good enough'. My heart went out to you mightily in watching your story, and I felt compelled to write this, with the hope of you reading it, to let you know that there are people in this world, although strangers to you, who care about and love you!!

I think many of us can relate to you, and we feel for you, deeply. I grew up poor as well, and I had to fight to get where I am, but I made it, and you can, too. Please don't give up on yourself. You are lovable, intelligent, and you have a gracious way with people that draws them to you. I can't give you money to help you with college, but I can give you words that hopefully help heal a part of your heart. Thank you for sharing some of the toughest, most intimate parts of your life with all of us. You and Cody will stay with me for years to come. KEEP TRYING!!

Michelle Hall
Renton, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you FrontLine, PBS, the director, and everyone involved, especially the boys.

I come from an impoverished area of Pennsylvania and am a descendant of poor coal miners so I related to the boys and the people in this series. Not that I had it as bad as these boys and people - far from it - but many of the things I saw were familiar to me.

I especially related to Chris and his attitude about leaving and getting out for this is what I did. I couldn't wait to leave after high school and am pretty sure I would be dead if I stayed...if not in body then in soul. I'd probably be an alcoholic too. I left and I never looked back and I believe Chris would be much better off if he could do the same. Cody has Liz and his girfriend so I believe he is much better off, even if he stays.

I was wondering more about the David school ans will look on the website. Where does their funding come from? Are they related to any religious organization? The story hammered home the importance of being educated and of making the effort to educate youself. I went to public school and was happy I could read and have some basic reasoning skills when I left. I wish you could have shown the condition of the public schools in the area where Cody and Chris live. I'd bet they are terrible and probably worse than where I went. The David school seemed very good. However, I was concerned about the discussion about evolution that was conducted. I realize this is a controversial area under continued debate, but did I hear correctly that a teacher was saying that evolutionary theory purports that Jesus was an ape or monkey? If this was a thought of one of the students it should have been dispelled by the teacher. Providing the students with false information is just as bad as no information at all.

Thank you again.

Christopher DeAngelo
Winthrop, MA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

More about the David School, its history, funding, philosophy, etc is on the web site. There is also background reading on why poverty persists in Appalachia. Click on the Chris or Cody sections of the site, or the Readings section of the site to access these articles

Dear FRONTLINE,

What an amazing film. I was also from a small town and I can certainly relate to Chris and Cody's struggles. My husband and I looked forward to your show each evening. Your film was refreshing to all of the other garbage on television these days. This is a TRUE reality show. Thank you for sharing this wonderful film with the rest of the country.

My son is 20 very creative and having a hard time figuring out his future. I'm going to suggest he watch your film. Well done! Thank you again.

Gabrielle Chini
Valley Center, CA

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posted jan. 9, 2006

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