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Villanova University Social Justice Film Class Sponsors April 13 Education Summit Exploring Educational Disparity, the Topic of Upcoming Documentary “Rise and Shine”

Social justice film students tackle the challenges of the educational system in a forthcoming documentary, which parallels the lives of two students from opposite sides of the globe – Philadelphia and Ghana

"Rise and Shine" poster

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Access to a quality education can make all the difference to success in life. But, education, in the United States and around the world, is in crisis. School closings, funding cutbacks and environmental challenges – all inhibit learning. Can we reverse course and make education equality more than a political talking point?

A Villanova University social documentary film class has tackled the issue by producing a film, "Rise and Shine," that parallels the lives of two students from opposite sides of the globe – Philadelphia and Ghana. In conjunction with the film, the class will host an Education Summit titled, “Rise and Shine: Breaking the Chains of Systematic Oppression” from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, April 13 in Garey Hall on the Villanova University campus. Social Justice Documentary is a course taught through the Department of Communication in Villanova University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature noted education experts including: keynote speaker, African-American scholar, historian and philosopher, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante; Anthony Murphy of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA); Villanova University History Professor Maghan Keita, recently elected chair of the Board of Trustees of the College Board; and Bryn Mawr College Education Professor Alice Lesnick.

Linda Wayman from Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High School, and Kwesi Koomson, founder of The Heritage Academy, Cape Coast, Ghana, will headline a panel discussion. Wayman and Koomson are administrators at the schools attended by the two students profiled in “Rise and Shine.” They will be joined on the panel by a representative from Teach for America.

“To see this group of Villanova students bond as a team and bond with the wonderful people who have allowed us to document their lives is inspiring,” said Villanova Communication professor Hezekiah Lewis, who teaches the social justice documentary course and acts as executive producer of the film.“ “Their sacrifice and respect for this project has made me proud.”

“Rise and Shine” writer and marketing crew member Julie Smith said working on the film has been one of the most meaningful experiences of her experience as a Villanova student.

“With equal opportunity education being at the forefront of political discourse, the stakes of our project are ultimately high. Working with such inspiring people both here in Philly and overseas in Ghana makes our film so much more than just another student project. We realize that this film has given us a platform to raise awareness and rally people in support of the people who are fighting so hard to gain access to a quality education,” Smith commented.

At the April 13 Education Summit, Philadelphia and Ghana cuisine will be offered at lunch followed by a traditional African dance performance and musical entertainment.

The first screening of "Rise and Shine will be held at 7 p.m., May 2 at The Ritz East in Philadelphia. Award-winning, filmmaker MK Asante will be the keynote speaker. Five1Four9 Productions, the name the student’s chose for “Rise and Shine’s production title, refers to the distance in miles between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cape Coast, Ghana.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.