North Campus Continuation High School – 2002 Winner

Sewellyn Kaplan teaches basic literacy skills, public speaking and video production at North Campus Continuation High School in San Pablo, a school for “at risk” students – kids who, for one reason or other, whether it’s substance abuse, teen pregnancy, family problems, learning difficulties, or just overall lack of motivation, have been unable to succeed at a normal high school.  Many of these kids have seen teachers give up on them.  But Sewellyn Kaplan doesn’t.  She says it’s her goal to create a love of learning in every student, even an 11th grader who’s reading at the 4th grade level.  And she creates a sense of excitement in her classroom that inspires kids to learn.

At a school where truancy is a major problem, 10-15% of the entire student body stays after school to participate in a special program that she created, a student-run video production business called “Film A Lot.”  She obtained a donation of a television, a video camera and editing equipment.  With help from community volunteers, the students wrote a business plan and they hold monthly board of directors meetings.  The business obtains contracts to videotape and edit special projects for various organizations such as the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the City of Pinole.  The students produce a documentary each year which is sent to New York City to enter a contest run by Panasonic.  For the past three years, the students have received first place for different aspects of filmmaking.  The video production company paid to send the kids back to New York to receive their prizes.

Sewellyn’s involvement in her students’ lives doesn’t end at the schoolhouse door.  She delivers food and clothing to those in need, visits the parents of her students, makes video and audio tapes to help her students learn to read, and supports her students by appearing at juvenile court hearings, visiting them in juvenile hall and, in one case, helping a student obtain U.S. citizenship.  She takes her kids camping, roller skating, walking and even over to her house to cook together.