July 19, 2019 | 93° F

Youth outreach meets cinema with screening of "Dead Poets Society" in first installment of film series at Rutgers

Photo by Twitter |

In one of his most recognized scenes, Robin Williams calls on his students to seize the day, a strikingly similar theme to that seen at Monday’s Rutgers Bonner Film Series’ showing of the film. 

The Rutgers Bonner Leaders Program looks to combine the art of film with community outreach through the "Dead Poets Society," the first of three installments by the Rutgers Bonner Film Series.

The screening played on Monday night on the College Avenue campus.

Nicholas Migliaccio, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and two-year organization member, said the films were chosen by “a collaboration of teams of students” who felt that it would best convey several themes. 

Other screenings this week include "A Place at the Table" on Wednesday and "Under the Same Moon" to run on Thursday. The films coincide with themes of youth mentorship, food insecurity and immigration, according to the event page.

The Bonner program works in partnership with The Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service, a subdivision of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Migliaccio said it is made up of approximately 20 students who work with the organization as part of the University's work study program. They meet every two weeks and “place students in local communities.” 

Anam Ahsan, a Class of 2017 Rutgers graduate, works with the Rutgers Bonner Leader Program as a mentoring coordinator. She has been working with children in various forms since her teenage years, and is currently working with them in New Brunswick. 

“To be honest, as much as we can teach these youth, there’s so much they can teach us, because they do live a very separate life from us,” she said.

"Dead Poets Society" is about John Keating, an English teacher and alumnus of an all-boys preparatory school. Throughout the movie, Keating takes an invested, hands-on approach when helping his students in class as they face pressures of growing up and the expectations of both their school and their parents. 

The evening consisted of select scenes from the film, as well as a panel comprised of several community members discussing topics such as youth education and the job of educators to inspire the youth. 

“The reason the students are showing ("Dead Poets Society") is because all year they have been working in a site where they have been working with local youth,” Ahsan said. 

Migliaccio said the panel consisted of Kelly Renner and Gabriella Lazzara — elementary school teachers and coaches in West New York and New Jersey — and Wilson Du, the associate director of Youth Empowerment Services in New Brunswick.  

“The world is changing and it’s hard to inspire the youth with all of social media and everything, it’s hard to get (students) into education,” Renner said. “It’s very hard to get them to be kids … it’s hard to get them to go outside, away from their devices.” 

Lazzara agreed and said that children grow up faster than they did "back in the day." She said various technologies like iPads and video game platforms make it harder to engage children.

Renner said that as mentors they need to work together and collaborate to develop new, engaging ideas that stress a student's creativity, not just tests. 

Members of the Rutgers Bonner Leaders Program said they hope to make steps to change that, by starting a dialogue for solutions with events like these. 

“What we hope to accomplish is to maybe get the Rutgers community even more involved with (New Brunswick) community engagement,” Ahsan said. “I feel like so often people stay within (their) Rutgers realm of our campuses, but there’s a whole world of New Brunswick with the community that exists around us. I hope to get more engagements, particularly with the youth.”

Ryan McAuliffe

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