Film poster for "Personal Statement" with images of three students.
Film poster for "Personal Statement" with images of three students.
Three seniors at Brooklyn high schools are determined to get their entire class to college


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EMMY® Nominated | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Educational Media Reviews Online | BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - Big Apple Film Festival | BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - Chicago International Children's Film Festival | 2020 NOTABLE VIDEOS FOR ADULTS - American Library Association

Education • College Access • School Counseling • Educational Equity • Social Work • Poverty Studies • Youth Leadership & Development • Family Studies

Date of Completion: 2018 | Run Time: 52 minutes​​ | Language: English & Spanish with Spanish subtitles available | Captions: Yes (English & Spanish) | Includes: Transcript & Discussion Guide | Director: Juliane Dressner | Co-Director: Edwin Martinez | ProducersJuliane Dressner & Beth Levison | CinematographersJuliane Dressner & Edwin Martinez | Editors: Edwin Martinez, Madeleine Gavin, Martha Shane & Kent Bassett

    PERSONAL STATEMENT is an Emmy® nominated feature-length documentary that follows Karoline, Christine, and Enoch through their senior year and into college. They work tirelessly as peer college counselors to realize better futures for themselves and their peers. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college.

    College access is one of the dominant civil rights issues of our time. Teenagers across the United States want all that a higher education promises: the possibility of prospering, moving beyond the survival mode that is all they have ever known, and participating in the American Dream. But many of them can’t get there, and as a result, income inequality persists. People from low-income backgrounds are increasingly excluded from higher education. One major cause: they don’t have access to essential resources, including college counseling support. 

    Nationwide, the typical school counselor to student ratio is 1 to 464. Karoline, Christine, and Enoch are three young people who have chosen to do something about this problem, by becoming the very resource they don't have for themselves. With professionally led training in college mentorship, a support network of key adults, and unflagging determination, each of them is fighting to change the world around them. The film sheds light on both the systemic barriers that keep so many young people from attaining a college degree and the power that already exists within historically marginalized communities to address problems of inequality. Karoline, Christine, and Enoch gain access to a system that might otherwise exclude them by leveraging the knowledge and relationships of their peers, family members, school staff and others.

    School Library Journal
    "Viewers walk with the students through a semester, experiencing prom jitters, heady successes, and tearful disappointments. Inspiring, with insight to share on the college application process."

    Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO) | Reviewed by Steve Bertolino, Reference/Instruction Librarian, Middlesex Community College
    Highly Recommended
    "In the intimate, affecting documentary PERSONAL STATEMENT, three high school seniors become peer counselors at their various high schools, to encourage their fellow students to develop the drive and skills to get into college, while they themselves are working on their own college applications. Enoch, Karolina, and Christine each work in the student success center in their separate high schools, all of which are located in Brooklyn, N.Y. Supported by their own school counselors, they are in essence becoming mentors and social workers to their peers, a burden that sometimes hangs heavily on them, especially as they face their own struggles – institutional, familial, personal – to keep their own aspirations and college plans on track. The film admirably doesn’t try to preach or even intrude into their daily lives, but instead simply shows them progressing through the school year, making conscious decisions to try to help their peers, working on the personal statements for their own college applications, and trying to deal with the various obstacles in their way to finding, choosing, getting accepted to, and finding the money to go to college."

    Washington Student Achievement Council Michael P. Meotti, Executive Director
    "PERSONAL STATEMENT brings to life the gaps in opportunity that lower income students and students of color face every year as they struggle to reach their dreams of continuing their education after high school.  More importantly, the documentary delivers an emotional boost fueled by the optimism and grit of the three extraordinary young adults who are the main subjects of the film who make you realize that they and we can succeed if our country is smart enough to support them."

    California Community Colleges Counselors Association and California Career Development Association | Dr. Lisa Raufman, Past President
    PERSONAL STATEMENT is an "excellent advocacy for college counseling in high schools' tool that can be used by any group of counselors who want decision makers to understand the need for college counselor specialists."

    Friends of WHEELS | Molly Delano, Executive Director
    "PERSONAL STATEMENT is "such a powerful affirmation of our work; and a compelling reflection of the reality for the millions of high school students and first generation college students around the country whose stories are reflected in the film. The deep inequities in our education system and the power of youth leadership are also on full display."

    East Side Middle School | David Getz, Principal
    "The response to the film has been consistent in that everybody who watches it is moved and wants to help. Our students have consistently thanked us for showing them the film. I think the film is brilliant in the way it shows the personal impact of societal forces. Our students have responded quite emotionally to these stories; a seventh grade class today asked for the opportunity to address the Chancellor or their representatives about the film. We are going to provide them the opportunity to write letters to either the Chancellor or their representatives on the City Council."

    The Journal of College Admissions | Mary Stegmeir
    "As the documentary shows, consistent and on-going support throughout the college admission process can help students overcome obstacles to college enrollments."

    New York Times | David Leonhardt, New York Times Columnist
    "For anyone interested in economic diversity in higher education — as I am — I recommend a new film that follows three high school students in Brooklyn as they try to navigate the application process. It’s called 'PERSONAL STATEMENT' and ... [it] describes the hurdles that lower-income students face, from the lack of a single college counselor at many high schools to the byzantine misery of financial aid forms...The film feels particularly timely in the wake of the college admissions scandal."

    The Hechinger Report | Liz Willen, Editor in Chief
    "The challenging admissions journeys these three public high school seniors from Brooklyn face provide a dramatic story line for PERSONAL STATEMENT a stunning new documentary...The film’s campaign for more guidance counselors correctly hits a nerve. A typical college counselor in a U.S. public high school is responsible for 482 students...the need for better resources and support for students pursuing higher education at every step of the way should be atop all of our agendas."

    American Film Institute
    "Inspirational and moving, heartwarming and heartbreaking, PERSONAL STATEMENT is a testament to the power of knowledge and the ability to lead with a dream.”

    Houston Independent School District | Rick Cruz, Chief of Strategy and Innovation
    "This video - through these stories - shows us how far a little bit of guidance and counseling and encouragement can go. I hope it serves as a call to action. Everyone should realize the severity of this issue and get involved."

    Best Documentary Feature Honorable Mention | Woodstock Film Festival Jury Citation
    "We were so moved by this portrayal of these inspiring young high school students who work to mentor other at-risk high school students while simultaneously struggling to navigate the tangle of academic achievement, paperwork and bureaucracy necessary for them to reach for the stars themselves. The characters were so fresh and accessible. The filmmakers clearly established incredible trust with their subjects and their families. It was clear that we were witnessing the coming of age of our next generation of leaders and advocates, all emerging from extremely challenging and at time precarious circumstances."

    Feedback from Students in Iowa
    "I personally have a lot of struggles with the college process. I am the first person in my family to be going to college and so it’s hard to have the correct guidance. This film made me realize that I can make it and things will be okay."

    "It was really good to see that other people also struggle to know where they belong and to see that these things are overcome-able."

    "This film gave me hope for finishing high school and the ability to get through the application process. It showed me that I need to find some close people to be able to both help me get to college and help others get there too."

    Check out Enoch's New York Times Op-Ed on the College Admissions Scandal!

    Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary 
    | Emmy® Nomination
    Best Documentary Feature | Big Apple Film Festival
    Best of Fest | Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival
    Best Documentary Feature - 1st Prize Professional Jury | Chicago International Children’s Film Festival
    Best Documentary Feature - 2nd Prize Youth Jury | Chicago International Children’s Film Festival
    Honorable Mention Best Feature Documentary | Woodstock Film Festival
    Honorable Mention Best Feature Documentary | Middlebury New Filmmakers Film Festival
    Best of Black Harvest Selection | Black Harvest Film Festival

    Opening Night Film | AFI DOCS
    Official Selection | Margaret Mead Film Festival
    Official Selection | Black Harvest Film Festival
    Official Selection | St. Louis International Film Festival
    Official Selection | GlobeDocs Film Festival
    Official Selection | Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
    Official Selection | Port Townsend Film Festival
    Official Selection | Milwaukee Film Festival
    Official Selection | SXSW EDU
    Official Selection | American Film Showcase 

    National College Access Network Conference
    National Association of College Admissions Counselors Conference
    National Association for Multicultural Education
    Nebraska Counseling Association
    National Association For The Education Of Homeless Children And Youth
    Higher Education User Group Cloud Symposium
    National Career Development Summit The Coalition for Career Development
    Pave the Way Conference | Washington Student Achievement Council
    Education Writers Association

    Juliane Dressner is a director, producer and cinematographer whose films focus on young people overcoming challenging circumstances and shed light on economic and racial justice issues in education and the criminal justice system. Her film THE SCARS OF STOP-AND-FRISK, was published as an Op-Doc by The New York Times, and she won the National Magazine Award for video for her short film, AN EDUCATION, which was published by The New York Times magazine. Her other short films have appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, and Buzzfeed. Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez's film PERSONAL STATEMENT follows peer college counselors Karoline, Christine and Enoch through their senior year and into college as they work tirelessly to realize better futures for themselves and their peers. Nationwide, the typical school counselor to student ratio is 1 to 490. Karoline, Christine and Enoch have chosen to do something about this problem, by becoming the very resource they don't have for themselves.

    Director, Cinematographer & Editor of PERSONAL STATEMENT


    Edwin Martinez is a Bronx-born Puerto Rican filmmaker whose award-winning work has screened theatrically, nationally, and internationally on major television and news outlets. His first feature documentary, TO BE HEARD, won awards at DOC NYC, Seattle International, and other festivals. He produced EL EFECTO CLEMENTE (ESPN), edited CITY OF TREES (PBS), and was cinematographer for WHAT ALICE FOUND (Sundance Special Jury Prize), as well as many other films. He has recently returned to his alma mater as an Assistant Professor of Film in the SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory, and his most recent film PERSONAL STATEMENT premiered at AFI docs in 2018.​ Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez’s film PERSONAL STATEMENT follows peer college counselors Karoline, Christine and Enoch through their senior year and into college as they work tirelessly to realize better futures for themselves and their peers. Nationwide, the typical school counselor to student ratio is 1 to 490. Karoline, Christine and Enoch have chosen to do something about this problem, by becoming the very resource they don't have for themselves.

    After graduating Brooklyn Generation School, Enoch Jemmott worked as an intern for College Access: Research & Action (CARA), helping high school students prepare to work as peer college counselors in their schools. Enoch enrolled in SUNY Cortland in the fall of 2015. He joined the football team but during his Sophomore year, decided to instead run track. He is majoring in Communications. Karoline Jimenez enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan College in the fall of 2015 after graduating with honors from Multicultural High School. While attending BMCC she continued to work in her high school as a college counselor. She transferred to SUNY New Paltz in 2018 and is pursuing a dual degree in English and Theater with a minor in Women's Studies. Christine Rodriguez enrolled at the Eugene Lang College at the New School in the fall of 2015 after graduating from the Bushwick School for Social Justice. She has continued to work in her high school as a college counselor. Christine serves on a Mayoral task force for school reform and is a leader of the Youth Power Project of Make the Road New York. She is majoring in Urban Studies.