Transfer School Graduate Seeks to Dispel 'Misconceptions' About Alma Mater

By Nikhita Venugopal on April 21, 2014 3:29pm | Updated on April 21, 2014 3:33pm

RED HOOK — When Stephanie Gaweda's excessive truancy forced her to transfer out of her high school in order to graduate on time, she said the judgements started to mount.

“[People outside the school] immediately thought that I was too dumb and too incompetent,” said Gaweda, now 19, who grew up in Sunset Park and who transferred from the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art to South Brooklyn Community High School (SBCHS) when she was 16. “But the truth is that everyone has their own stories.”

Gaweda credited the South Brooklyn Community High School, a Red Hook transfer school that serves students ages 16 and 20 years old who have dropped out of their previous high schools or had to leave because of excessive truancy, with motivating her and scores of other students to get back on track with a customized curriculum and a supportive faculty.

She graduated in 2012 and went on to study cinematography at Columbia College Chicago, where she's showing her appreciation for her alma mater by creating a new documentary, “Dream Factories."

She said the film will focus on 10 students from the graduating class of 2014 during their last month before they graduate in June, said Gaweda. A crew of about a dozen members will begin shooting in May and they’ll also launch a Kickstarter campaign soon, she said.

She expects the film, which will also feature other local transfer schools like Brooklyn Frontiers High School, will be ready by the end of the year.

She hopes the film can banish some of the misconceptions surrounding the school that pushed her to success.

She said she started to lose focus at age 15, when she stopped connecting with her classes in musical performance the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art, stopped going to class, and watched her workload pile up.

She said she was told she couldn’t graduate with her class if she stayed at the school, and was desperate for a second chance.

“I didn’t see the point in it all,” she said of her struggle. “I was very pessimistic.”

Through the documentary, she also hopes to show students who are struggling in school, like she was, that they have another choice, and that there's no shame in a transfer school.

“I didn’t want to drop out,” she said of her crucial decision to transfer to SBCHS. “I just didn’t know there were other options.”

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