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WITH VIDEO: Local students’ films selected for competition

MPB’s “Can I Kick It?” Crew members (from left) Haley Bender, Ashton Oliver, Austin Bowley, and KeKe Stewart film a piece on dropout prevention with volunteers from Crystal Springs.

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s (MPB) original series “Can I Kick It?” is on a mission to end the high school dropout crisis in Mississippi.


Since 2011, MPB has been working with teams of high school students from around the state to encourage them to stay in school and provide them with leadership tools to influence their peers to do the same.


The teams, known as MPB’s “Can I Kick It?” Crews, are trained by MPB staff in film production, digital literacy, storytelling and leadership development to create film pieces that will appeal to their peers. With video cameras in hand, the students tell their own stories of trials and successes, share their ideas, and give a voice to their generation.


The students have produced 14 short films and documentaries and have organized eight town hall meetings in the Jackson Public School District over the past year. As a team, they aim to engage the community and encourage students, parents and educators alike to get behind the dropout prevention cause.  Some of those participating are from Hazlehurst City School District and Copiah County Schools in Crystal Springs.


MPB’s Yvetta Williams, who is the producer and director of the “Can I Kick It?” series, works with the Crews and guides them in their mission.


“Young people have something to say, and ‘Can I Kick It?’ gives them the platform to voice concerns about issues that are important to them,” says Williams. “The Crews allow young people to use their passion for films as a means to tell their stories, share their ideas and creativity.”


Most recently, the four of the Crews’ films were accepted into the American Graduate Student Film Festival, a national online video competition for students wanting to engage their peers about the dropout crisis.


Over the course of one weekend, a team from MPB and 20 Crew members filmed and produced four short films that shed light on the crisis from a student perspective.


Crew member Haley Bender of Jackson was one of those students.


“Students can play a big part in saving other students and themselves [from dropping out],” said Bender, 15. “I hope to get people to realize we are all in this together.” The title of Bender’s team’s film is “We Are All in this Together.”


Christina Montgomery, also of Jackson, feels that students need more encouragement when going to school becomes tough and hopes that the Crews’ films help viewers to change their perspective.


“There are many other sides to dropping out,” said Montgomery, who is 17. “[I want] people to see…how they can have an influence.”


The films are now being showcased and judged for the festival via YouTube. Voting is open to the public from March 18-25, and overall winners will be selected by popular vote according to the most “likes” on YouTube at


“The film festival allows students to present their solutions to the struggles that they face in today’s society,” added Williams. “MPB is thrilled to give them the opportunity to share their creations and exhibit their potential as filmmakers to a national audience.”


More information on the festival can be found at


An estimated 37 percent of Mississippi high school students drop out of school before graduation. Through initiatives such as “Can I Kick It?” and the student “Can I Kick It?” Crews, MPB hopes to reverse the current dropout trend.


Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) provides relevant instructional and public affairs programming to Mississippians through its statewide television and radio network.  MPB enhances the work of educators, students, parents and learners of all ages by providing informative programming and educational resources.  MPB’s locally-produced programming focuses on the people, resources and attractions that reflect Mississippi’s unique culture and diverse heritage. Children’s television programs constitute a major portion of the daytime and weekend morning schedules.  MPB provides a valuable resource to Mississippians in disseminating information as part of the state’s emergency preparedness and response system. Since 1970, MPB has won over 400 national, regional and statewide awards, including Emmy®, Edward R. Murrow and Parents’ Choice® Awards.


“Can I Kick It?” is an original MPB production aimed at influencing potential dropouts to stay in school. Its laid-back, hip-hop style is mixed with a fresh, edgy feel as prominent Mississippians tell their own stories of successes, struggles, setbacks, barriers and triumphs. Each individual gives a testimony as a means of inspiring and raising the self-esteem of young men and women who are at risk of dropping out of school. To view “Can I Kick It,” or to find out more about the production, visit

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