During the documentary students’ continuously snapped in support and understanding of the story they saw projected on the screen in the library at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School. Afterwards they asked their visitor, the film’s subject, about his struggles in high school, student loans, and life after college graduation.
Growing up as a young, black male in poverty on the South Side of Chicago, graduating high school and going to college seemed like an impossibility for Robert Henderson. But with the support of his grandmother and his teachers, Henderson says he was able to graduate from Lake Forest College in 2014.
Henderson’s inspiring story is captured in the documentary film All the Difference. This year he has traveled all over the country and even to the White House for screenings of the documentary, but said the screening at the Kauffman School last week had some of the most responsive students.
“I feel like I was able to touch more students here than any other school,” Henderson said.
Henderson sees a lot of similarities between the Kauffman School and his alma mater, Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, an all-male college preparatory high school in Chicago. All the Difference follows Henderson and fellow Urban Prep graduate Krishaun Branch through college, and illustrates the incredible challenges both young men must overcome to not only graduate high school, but also become the first in their family to earn a college degree.
“(At) Kauffman school, they set high expectations for their students, and Urban Prep is the same way,” said Henderson, who was in the first class to graduate from the academy in 2010.
Kauffman school CEO Hannah Lofthus decided to bring Henderson to Kansas City after meeting him at a screening in Colorado in October.
“I was just so inspired by his strength,” Lofthus said. “And I said, ‘You have to meet my kids.’”
In addition to spending time with students, Henderson screened the film with Kauffman school teachers to discuss issues of race and the challenges of being a first generation college student.
All the Difference aired on the documentary series POV on PBS stations across the country in September, and as part of the national engagement campaign around the film there are online resources designed for first-time college students and their families.
For Henderson, it was the support of family and educators that made the difference, and he says that screenings like the one at the Kauffman school is just one of the ways he hopes to impact the lives of others.
“I’m able to connect with these students and be a role model, and guide them to rewrite their history,” Henderson said. “There’s no better feeling than that.”