I was in prison before I was even born. So begins the story of Victor Rios, a high school dropout, Oakland gang member, and three-time felon by 15. But when a teacher’s quiet persistence, a mentor’s moral conviction, and his best friend’s murder converge, Rios’s path takes an unlikely turn.

Filmed over more than 25 years, THE PUSHOUTS weaves Rios’s inspiring dropout-to-professor narrative with stories from YO!Watts, a youth center serving 16-24 year-olds who face overwhelming systemic challenges to, as 19-year-old Rynesha puts it, “living our best lives.” A then-and-now story of unusual intimacy and depth, THE PUSHOUTS trades well-meaning but detrimental narratives of tragedy and victimization for true stories of grit and resilience, highlighting the boundless potential of young people to thrive when given access to meaningful opportunities and connections to adults who care.

National PBS broadcast, September, 2019.