The second season of Sundance TV’s intriguing non-fiction series, “Dream School” debuts Wednesday night in a new city, at a new school, with new teachers and a whole new set of problem students.
This characterization of these students isn’t meant to be thoughtless in any way; it’s just simply the truth. This group of young people were specifically chosen for this endeavor because all of them have issues that have made it impossible for the regular school system to work for them, so they’ve been selected to attend “Dream School: NYC,” a 30-day intensive program with classes taught by celebrity mentors that will hopefully move them forward in their educational path toward completing high school.
The series from is from Executive Producers Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson, rapper Chuck D, and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. Renowned author and educator LouAnne Johnson, who’s work with at-risk students inspired the acclaimed film “Dangerous Minds,” has been brought in as the school’s principal.
Jackson says, “I’m excited “Dream School” is coming back for a second season, this show is really important to me and I am honored to be able to help offer these kids a chance to turn their lives around.”
From the initial episode, it’s clear that this season, much like last season, will be equal parts triumphant and tragedy throughout the process. Much like life, many times the students, and teachers as well, will take two steps forward accompanied by one step back, but this isn’t unexpected when dealing with young people who are facing very serious real life issues such as poverty, homelessness, single parenthood and being orphaned. But it’s just these factors that make this series so compelling to watch. While the student’s behavior is often frustrating, it’s still difficult not to root for these kids to make positive changes in their lives.
What makes the students both likeable and vexing at the same time is an honesty that can’t be faked. It’s the kind that comes with youth, before age, for better or worse, creates a societal filter and can rob an individual of personal fortitude.
And in this series, it’s not just the students who are learning — the teachers are as well, often making mistakes as they try to find imaginative ways to deal with the unconventional obstacles they face in trying to reach these kids. But it’s clear that all of the instructors are dedicated to giving it their all, particularly Johnson, who can obviously relate to the students in a unique way, but can also be a forceful leader when she needs to be. (For a full list of mentors, see below.)
Upon completion of the first episode, which does an exemplary job of pulling the viewer into several of the students personal stories, onlookers will have a hard time turning away, wanting to see where everyone will end up at the conclusion of this journey. Judging by a preview of the entire season of “Dream School” offered at the close of episode one, it’s not going to be a smooth semester for anyone involved; it will be a struggle for all, but one that’s certainly worth sticking around for.
“Dream School: NYC” premieres Wednesday night at 9e/p on Sundance TV.
Celebrity mentors include:
Gloria Allred (Civil Rights Attorney) – Legal Studies
50 Cent (Multi-platinum award-winning musician and Entrepreneur) – Student Mentor
David Chang (Chef and founder of Momofuku Restaurant Group) – Nutrition and Culinary Arts
Chuck D (Hip-Hop Legend, RAPtivist, Musician and Digital Advocate) – Student Mentor and Sociology
Cliff Dorfman (Screenwriter) – English
David Eisenbach (Author and Historian) – History
Alvin Hall (Financial Advisor and Author) – Math
Gaye Theresa Johnson (Activist, Author and Historian) – Sociology
Adam Richman (Television personality) – Environmental Studies
Don Rimx (Graffiti Artist and Muralist) – Art
Rabbi Shmuley (Author, TV Host and Public Speaker) – Religious Studies
Les Stroud (Survival Expert) – Earth Sciences
Cenk Uygur (“The Young Turks” Main Host and Co-founder) – Cultural Studies
Johnny Weir (Olympic Figure Skater) – Physical Education and Communications
Nicole Winhoffer (Fitness Instructor) – Physical Education
Dean Winters (Actor) – Life Skills