They are five students from different cities. Five students of different ages and backgrounds. Five students facing different barriers.

All five feel the higher education system has failed them. But all five are fighting for a second chance to pursue a college degree and a meaningful career. Are they any different from our students? Do we know the challenges our students are facing? How do they overcome? What role do we all play in their success?

The Cal State San Bernardino College of Natural Sciences is hosting a screening of the documentary “Unlikely,” a feature film that investigates America’s dropout crisis and the systemic difficulties students face navigating the college and university landscape.

The screening will be hosted through Zoom on Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Attendees can view the documentary by clicking on its Zoom link on the day and time of the event. The link is also available on the event’s Coyote Connection page.

“This documentary explores the pressing issues many of our own students are facing: student debt, inequality, access to resources, access to information, being a first-generation student or working parent,” said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “We hope viewing this film will inspire us to look at higher education and serving students in new, better ways: new approaches to teaching, new models for advising, new approaches to admissions and new ways to dismantle barriers. We all have a stake in the lives of our students, and we can all be messengers for change as we all work toward our GI 2025 goals.”

The film profiles five different students from all walks of life from Akron, Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles – two are parents, another works full-time, one comes from an immigrant family, another is the first in their family to go to college – and showcases the obstacles they face in the pursuit of a degree. For a preview, visit the documentary’s official trailer on YouTube.

“Unlikely” was screened as a world premiere at the 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival, and was an official selection at the 2019 Prescott Film Festival and the 2019 SXSW EDU conference and festival. It was also reviewed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Hollywood Reporter, The Hechinger Report, and the Los Angeles Times.

“Unlikely” looks at the programs and methods universities are implementing to help students make the transition to college life and increase their odds of successfully completing their degrees.

The education leaders, higher education advocates, and others interviewed in the documentary include, Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County; Bridget Burns, executive director of University Innovation Alliance; Sara Goldrick-Rab, president of Temple University; Michele Campbell, executive director of the Lebron James Family Foundation; and Howard Schultz, former CEO and executive chairman of Starbucks.

The film was created by husband-and-wife filmmakers Adam and Jayce Fenderson, who say they create documentaries that harness “the power of media to advocate for issues of social justice and mobilize audiences to effect change.”

Jayce Fenderson directed 2011’s “First Generation,” which explores the problem of college access faced by first-generation and low-income students and how their success has major implications for the future of our nation. Similar to “Unlikely,” “First Generation,” tells its narrative through the lives of students trying to make their way through college.

Before she was a filmmaker, Jayce Fenderson previously worked as a senior admissions officer reviewing application files. She would mark applications with “L” for “likely” to be admitted, “P” for “possible,” and “U” for “unlikely” to be admitted. It was the applications she marked with a “U” that motivated her to become a filmmaker and, later, inspired the name of the documentary.