Class of '27

Three communities in rural America come together against the odds, helping their children grow into successful graduates.

Film Signature Image
America ReFramed
Premiere Date
September 13, 2016
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
Headshot of James Rutenbeck
Executive Producer

James Rutenbeck

James Rutenbeck (Director/Co-producer) is a two-time recipient of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Journalism award. Notable films include Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, Class of ’27, and Scenes from a Parish. His work has appeared on Show more America Reframed, American Experience, Independent Lens, The Atlantic, and NYT Op-Docs. Show less


Nina Alvarez

Director and Producer, NINA ALVAREZ, is an award-winning documentarian, journalist and video photographer with over twenty years of experience working all over the world. Most recently, Nina joined the full-time faculty at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She recently led a Futuro Media Group investigative project about the Show more trafficking reality of the H2A foreign labor program in the U.S. Nina directed Fields of Promise, a short documentary about a Mexican family who migrates to Portland Oregon for the berry harvest. As part of a three-part series, it received a Columbia duPont Award in 2018. Previously, she was the Senior Producer and writer at The Naked Truth, a series of one-hour investigative documentaries (Fusion Network and Netflix), where her work was recognized by a Columbia duPont Journalism Award, RFK Human Rights/ Journalism Award and the Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award. She directed and wrote The New Americans, an episode for the 2012 PBS landmark series, Latino Americans, which received a Peabody Award and the Imagen Award. Nina’s producing, writing and directing credits also include Very Young Girls (Toronto Film Festival / Showtime), The Battle for America’s Schools (MSNBC) Marijuana USA (CNBC), the Oscar-nominated, Which Way Home (HBO) and the Emmy-nominated, Aftershock Pakistan (MTV). Show less


Dustinn Craig

Dustinn Craig is an award-winning White Mountain Apache filmmaker who began his career making skateboarding films on the Reservation. He has won a Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowship, and was selected for a documentary fellowship at the Sundance Institute Native and Indigenous Program. Dustinn produced a feature-length documentary on the Chiricahua Show more Apache Geronimo for the PBS series We Shall Remain, as well as two short films portraying contemporary Native stories connected to the past. He also produced a personal short for the acclaimed four-part series Matters of Race. Dustinn runs the production company, White Springs Creative, LLC with his wife, Velma Kee Craig, and lives in Mesa, AZ. Show less

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The Film

On native lands of the Upper Midwest, in the hollows of Appalachia and in West Coast migrant camps, parents contemplate a compromised future for their children, facing depressed local economies and soaring dropout rates. But a growing body of research on quality child development offers hope for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Three diverse filmmaking teams set out across rural America, exploring the lives of our youngest citizens and telling the stories of families and communities coming together-- against the odds— to guide their children into successful graduates of the Class of ’27.

Class of ’27 focuses on students, educators, parents and guardians in three locations: Owsley County, KY, the poorest county in the US; along the West Coast with children of farm workers; and in White Earth Nation, the largest and poorest Native American reservation in Minnesota. Shot in observational style, the beauty and poverty of these American settings, and the challenges our youngest citizens, their families and school systems face, come into stark relief.