Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary

Films YouthBuild Documentary Project
YouthBuild Documentary Project

YouthBuild Documentary Project

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The YouthBuild Documentary Project intimately captures the lives of four teenagers who make the cut for an innovative and demanding alternative education program – YouthBuild – in North Philadelphia, one of the roughest communities in America. Documenting their year long journey toward graduation, the film interweaves dramatic stories of poverty and opportunity, exploring the unforgettable personal struggles to reclaim communities and reinvent fragile lives. This film goes beyond stereotypes of disconnected youth to show how brutal boundaries can define a life, and how these four teens find the strength and courage to transcend them.

The dropout rate in Philadelphia’s public schools hovers at 50% and the crime rate is one of the highest in the nation. Over 2000 out-of-school youth have applied to YouthBuild Philadelphia for a program that offers 18-20 year olds a shot at a high school diploma and the holy grail – a job. There are only 200 slots. If you make it through the first round of interviews, you then must pass through a grueling emotional boot camp – known around here as Mental Toughness. If you’re one of the lucky 200 invited into the program, you’re about to enter a year that can remarkably change the course of your life.

Welcome to YouthBuild, where you go to class, you rebuild slums, you to go prom, you go to too many funerals, and you fight to make it to graduation. Last year, only 117 made it to graduation. Will these young people make it this year?


Youth Build USA is perhaps the least well-known and most successful youth intervention, education and support organization in the US: it has touched hundreds of thousands of lives since its founder Dorothy Stoneman (a Skoll Foundation Awarded Social Entrepreneur) began a program to teach and employ at-risk youth in Harlem to rebuild abandoned apartment building and provide housing for the homeless. Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern’s breakthrough films include both hard-hitting story of genocide in the Sudan, The Devil Came on Horseback and entertainment like the hit documentary A Piece of Work featuring comedienne Joan Rivers. The ‘Stories of Change’ connected Stoneman and Sundberg and inspired both filmmakers and social entrepreneur to explore ways to tell this story of thousands of lives, and numerous communities, transformed The 2010 short film Youth Build from Sundance supported by the Gates Foundation is a preview of what’s to come.

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Director: Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern

Annie and RIcki are well known for producing and creating critically acclaimed documentaries and are sought after for their experience in directing dynamic personal journeys close to home, as well as mounting large international productions in challenging locations. Accomplished writers and directors in their own right, Ricki and Annie are the leading creative forces behind Break Thru Film’s productions and are known for crafting deft and cinematic journeys through unexpected territory. Each project tracks new landscape – from criminal injustice in the American South, to Darfur, to stand up comedy and celebrity culture – but all are centered on unforgettable people and their most human experiences.

In 2009, Annie and Ricki received a Sundance/Skoll 'Stories of Change' production grant to support a new documentary about the innovative education and anti-poverty program YouthBuild. Their new short for the Sundance Institute / Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is soon to be released as part of the BMGF focus on the United Nations’ Millennium Goals.

Ricki’s additional credits include directing and producing In My Corner for POV/ PBS, Emmy nominated Neglect Not The Children (PBS) and as producer on HBO’s series Autopsy I, II, III and Murder 9 to 5. Ricki is the author of a children’s book series Beryl Bean: Mighty Adventurer of the Planet published by HarperCollins.

Annie was a director and supervising producer on the HBO 2009 series Brave New Voices and she developed and produced the feature film Tully, nominated for four 2003 IFP Spirit Awards. Additional directing and producing credits include a four part special on the Mayo Clinic for Discovery (2004) and the 1996 Academy Award and Emmy winning One Survivor Remembers, a co-production of HBO and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Producer: Annie Sundberg & Ricki Stern

Social Entrepreneur: YouthBuild U.S.A.

YouthBuild is a youth and community development program that simultaneously addresses core issues facing low-income communities: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development. In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing, and transform their own lives and roles in society. There are now 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states, Washington, DC, and the Virgin Islands. 92,000 YouthBuild students have built 19,000 units of affordable, increasingly green, housing since 1994.

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