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WTTW11 Partners with Free Spirit Media on a President's Day event, part of American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen a stay-in-school initiative

"Graduating to the Big Screen" will take place on Monday, February 20 from 1-3 pm at ICE Theatres in Chicago.

For immediate release
- February 16, 2012

WTTW11, Chicago's premier public television station, is partnering with Free Spirit Media, an after school program for aspiring teen filmmakers in underserved areas, to present a special President's Day screening event, "Graduating to the Big Screen," in connection with the American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen initiative.

Approximately 200 teens, parents, educators, administrators and others will attend this free "big-screen" showcase of Free Spirit Media's youth-produced videos. ICE Theatres, at 3330 W. Roosevelt Road in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood, has generously donated the space for this event, which will take place on Monday, February 20 from 1:00 - 3:00 pm, and WTTW will provide popcorn and soft drinks. The screening will be emceed by veteran NBC5 news contributor Art Norman, who has been active in youth-oriented causes in Chicago's African American community.

WTTW has worked with Free Spirit Media to produce public service announcements, created by youth in the FSM program, to encourage their peers to stay in school. Two of the PSAs are currently airing on WTTW, and more are slated to air in the coming months. The PSAs and two youth-produced news packages created for the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs will be shown, followed by a panel discussion about the power of youth voice and the importance of graduation. The panelists are:

  • Courtney Coleman — Courtney has charmed Chicago audiences as an FSM reporter and anchor since 2010. She's a triple threat — she can write scripts, edit videos and produce newscasts. Now in her junior year at King College Preparatory, she continues to grow as a young, phenomenal journalist.
  • Nick Shields — Nick Shields is a jack-of-all-trades in the media industry. He has reported for the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times, reported for WTTW's Chicago Tonight and currently serves as director of external communications at Navy Pier. As a mentor to Free Spirit Media students, he also helps the youth unlock their full potential.
  • Nakita Bailey — Nakita currently works at Kennedy King as a work study administrative assistant. She was a member of the Hoops High crew from 2004-2007 and graduated from Crane High School in 2007. She is majoring in Media Communications at Kennedy King and plans to complete her bachelors in Sports Broadcasting.
  • Kim Foxx — Kim Foxx is a dynamic force in the Free Spirit Media world. She is the Cook County State's Attorney for the Juvenile Division, allowing her an intimate understanding of how to support youth, as they face life's challenges. She is also Free Spirit Media's Board of Directors Vice President and believes media production is an effective tool to help youth succeed. She is also a Chicago Public Schools alumnus.

Following the panel discussion, Free Spirit Media will showcase some of the best student work from the past year.

About American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen

American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help local communities across the country address the dropout crisis. CPB, in partnership with America's Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is working with public media stations in 20 "Hub Markets" where the dropout crisis is most acute to raise awareness of the issue and coordinate action with community partners — all with the goal of helping students stay on course to graduate from high school. For more, visit

About WTTW

For more than 55 years, audiences have turned to WTTW for distinctive programming that informs, inspires, educates, and entertains. WTTW reaches 1.5 million weekly households over a four-state area. Recognized for its award-winning local and national productions, WTTW is committed to presenting the very best in cultural, nature, science, public affairs, and children's programming across its four distinct television channels. For more information, please visit

About Free Spirit Media

Through hands-on production of their own media content, Free Spirit Media participants build life skills in communication, critical and independent thinking, teamwork, and the use of technology. The organization serves more than 500 participants each year, and continuously strives to create innovative programs and establish unique partnerships that will impact the lives of our young people. Since 2001, Free Spirit Media has helped more than 3,000 underserved youth in Chicago to share their stories and discover their potential through hands-on media, film, and journalism programs. To learn more, visit