CSN to show documentary film at Library of Congress

The College of Southern Nevada plans to screen its documentary-style film “No Greater Odds” in Washington, D.C. as part of an effort to teach policymakers about the importance of college attainability.

The event — organized by education advocacy group Achieving the Dream — is open to the public and starts at 5 p.m. Wednesday inside the Library of Congress. James McCoy, CSN’s associate vice president for academic affairs, said event coordinators have invited every member of Nevada’s congressional delegation, though school administrators on Tuesday were unsure any would attend. Organizers are expecting representatives from the White House and America’s College Promise program — an initiative launched by President Barack Obama to make two years of community college free.

“We want to show that any student can have the chance to achieve their goals and dreams by going to institutions that uniquely fit their needs,” said communications instructor Charlene S. Gibson, who spearheaded efforts to create the film with McCoy. “We’re here to help start a conversation.”

Produced by CSN faculty and students, the hour-long movie chronicles the lives of five alumni and the challenges faced by students at community colleges. Their tales are varied and complex — while one student talks about his struggles with bipolar disorder, another recent graduate in the film describes what it’s like to obtain a GED and attend college 20 years after dropping out of high school.

About 37 percent of CSN’s students receive Pell Grants, the federal government’s need-based grant. CSN’s average independent Pell grant recipient lives on approximately $16,500 a year. Nearly a quarter of its enrollment are first-generation college students, learning to navigate higher education on their own.

The film’s cast and crew will attend Wednesday’s screening, with travel and lodging paid for by private sponsors.

“I’m extremely nervous,” said Jaklin Guyumjyan, one of the students featured in the film. Guyumjyan moved from Armenia to the United States as a child the day before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This week’s trip marks her first visit to the nation’s capital.

“This city is such a huge, huge part of America, and it’s really exciting to be here,” she said. “Not growing up here, as an immigrant, I’ve never gotten to go to the White House or the Capitol. It’s kind of almost like a dream come true.”

Contact Ana Ley at aley@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Find her on Twitter @la__ley.

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