Changing Minds at Concord High School
Director: Susan Weiser-Finley
Genre: Educational, Independent, Coming of Age, Science, Urban, Social Issue, Spiritual, News, Health/Medical
Country of Production – USA
This is a real story of change, remarkable change in a population often thought to be unchangeable.
Concord High is a transfer school in Staten Island, NY. A last hope, last chance to graduate high school; most of its students have histories of trauma and academic failure. The film follows the entire school as they participate in a semester-long mindfulness-training program.
The additional twist here is that the students both helped to film the experience and conducted a scientific study – of their classmates! – comparing the effects of mindfulness training with that of a placebo group. It also included a science curriculum on the neuroscience of mindfulness – how it can change our brains for the better. Tracy Dennis, Ph.D., psychology professor at Hunter College was the lead scientist on this project, so the kids were her research assistants.
Inspired by the concept of ‘neuroplasticity,’ they posed the question: Would mindfulness practice for just three minutes a day help Concord’s students cope with anxiety and destructive emotions and improve their ability to learn?
At the start, the students, many of whom had experienced tremendous challenges, and obstacles in life, were failing high school. They didn’t believe as a group that change for them was really possible.
Our film ends on the day of their graduation.
“Even though you can’t control most of what happens in life, you CAN change your mind,” says one reformed skeptic.
‘I’m not a quitter,’ another student agrees.