White House Student Film Festival Honors Austin’s Wheelchair Challenge Story

March 11, 2015
By Educator Innovator

When the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) veteran Ben Root set out to film a documentary about fellow student Archer Hadley’s Wheelchair Challenge, he did not expect to end up at the White House. But on Friday, Root and his teacher Gil Garcia got word that the film was chosen from over 1,500 submissions as an official selection for the 2015 White House Student Film Festival.

Root’s story follows Archer, a young man with cerebral palsy who was frustrated by the lack of automatic push button doors on the Austin High School campus.

“Having cerebral palsy and living in a wheelchair is a completely different experience than anyone with a quote-unquote ‘normal’ life,” Archer explained at the beginning of the film.

One morning, Archer got soaking wet in the rain while trying to open the school door. “Why can’t I do something about this?” he asked himself.

So he did.

Archer organized a wheelchair challenge: for $20, students and teachers could nominate someone to spend an entire day in a wheelchair or donate to the cause. Dozens of students and faculty took the challenge, experiencing firsthand the frustration of navigating classes, meetings, lunch and clubs in a wheelchair.

In the end, Archer raised more than double his goal of $40,000. And this January he was joined by Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completed renovations. Sitting in a wheelchair, Gov. Abbott praised the teen, “Archer is an inspiration, an inspiration for me and an inspiration for so many others.”

To see other SRL White House Student Film Festival submissions, click here.

“The Archer Hadley Story”
Ben Root, Producer, Editor and Director
Emily Potter, Asst. Producer, Asst. Editor, Production Sound
Alex TreviƱo, 2nd Unit Director
Khunal Parkash, Key Grip, Assistant Camera
Keirra Ewah, Transcriptions, Production Asst.
Original Post/ PBS NewsHourĀ Student Reporting Labs