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The Independent Critic

Alan Berry
45 Mins.


 "Where Education Grows: Stories from Indiana Fields Available Online 
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In 2013, something pretty miraculous happened here in my home state of Indiana. 

In 2013, the Indiana Migrant Program, long chastised by the federal government, turned itself around and began being praised by the very population that it served. Indiana filmmaker Alan Berry's Where Education Grows: Stories from Indiana Fields shows a brief history of how and why the Migrant Education Program came to exist and how this huge change in 2013 occurred and began changing, and most importantly improving, the lives of those that it serves. 

Berry, whose film Dead Man's Line recently picked up the Hoosier Award from the Indiana Film Journalists Association, has worked with his usual team in constructing this engaging documentary that humanizes Indiana's migrants, a population of Indiana not often recognized or even understood as their families often move from place-to-place as the seasonal field needs change. It's an unstable, inconsistent and challenging way to live that most dramatically impacts children whose educational and developmental needs often go unmet as they move across the country with their families following the available work. 

Overseen by the Office of English Learning and Migrant Education in Indiana, the Migrant Education Program came under fire in late 2012 following media reports that it had significantly under-utilized available funding aimed at ensuring that children of migrant workers get a good education. Where Education Grows explores the fullness of Indiana's programs, weaving into the fabric of the story national advocates and spokespersons who eloquently speak about migrant workers and the importance of educating their children. It's a vital discussion to undertake, especially given changes in the national conversation that have occurred since 2013. 

Where Education Grows eloquently captures the importance of the program, shining most brightly when it focuses on the families themselves yet occasionally cutting to the heart of what may have created problems with the Migrant Education Program in Indiana to begin with - a scene in which high school students are simply asked to explain their knowledge of what a migrant worker is plays out as remarkably convicting as the answers range from blank stares to uncomfortable giggles. 

It isn't easy to watch. 

Yet, Where Education Grows becomes rather inspiring once the film moves away from the challenges Indiana faced and into the ways in which Indiana rose to that challenge to create a rather model program that meets students where they're at and creates the kind of educational opportunities that every state should aspire to have. The film's second half, in particular, speaks to engaged and motivated educators finding unique ways to reach a population of children that is challenging but far from impossible to reach with effective educational programming. It's an effort that pays off - for families, for communities, and, most of all, for the children whose lives may indicate instability but whose hearts and minds still have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. 

Where Education Grows: Stories from Indiana Fields is now available for public viewing and will prove to be a meaningful experience for those familiar with or caring about the migrant experience in Indiana. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic