CRANFORD - The Cranford Public Schools Parent Academy announced that the next public stop on the LIKE US TOUR will be in Cranford.

LIKE US, a new Film "For Kids, By Kids" has been making history in Jersey City and announced a special presentation for Unity Day, Wednesday, October 23, at Hillside Avenue School from at 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. This event is free and open to all students and their parents grades 2 through 8 in the Cranford Public School District. Audience members are asked to wear and share the color orange to come together in one giant orange message of hope, visibly showing, no child should ever experience bullying. 

LIKE US, a short film about bullying prevention, recently won 'Best Local Film' and 'Best Director of a Short Film' at the 2019 Golden Door International Film Festival. The Program will include a screening of the forty-minute film, followed by a Q & A with Director Kris Van Nest, Assistant Director Ann Wallace, and selected cast members and student writers. The discussion will be lead by motivational speaker for youth, Deepa Khiani Ramchandani. Deepa, a new LIKE US team member, is an anti-bullying trained specialist and survivor who empowers kids with coping skills and a safe place to stand up and speak up. 

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“LIKE US is a poetically beautiful film to celebrate Unity Day," said Julie Hertzog, Director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, a nationally recognized leader on bullying prevention. “It is especially powerful that the LIKE US team will be wearing the color orange at the October 23 screening, as it embodies the essential spirit of the day: practicing kindness, being accepting, and including others.”

LIKE US is directed by Award winner Kris Van Nest and involves 72 students. It was a year long project created "For kids, by kids" under the leadership of the Family School Association Performing Arts Program of The Ethical Community Charter School in Jersey City, NJ. The screenplay was written by ten students in grades 6-8 and revolves around a group of outcasts — each facing bullying and rejection for their non-binary gender identity, recent loss from cancer, unconventional interests, or other reasons. LIKE US raises awareness of the nuanced and widespread nature of bullying, and serves as a prevention tool to be shared with other schools and communities.

The Cranford Public Schools Parent Academy brings informative programs to the K-12 parent community, reflective of their feedback on current issues, throughout the school year. These programs can include guest speakers, assemblies, films and activities. They work collaboratively with the Cranford safety partners as well as neighboring community organizations.  Examples of past topics included; bullying prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, mindfulness, suicide prevention, cell phone use, and managing stress and anxiety. Their goal is to keep the lines of communication open with parents while providing these educational and relevant programs. 

“We are very excited to bring the film “Like Us” to the Cranford Community. Understanding the importance of inclusion, acceptance and teaching empathy are valued goals in our district," said Gayle Colucci, District Coordinator of Culture and Climate.

Like Us Film Synopsis 

The Shooting Star Youth Challenge is coming to town, and Cory, Fatin, Lana, Astrid, and Trevor have each been unable to find a team. When their Principal asks the group of outcasts to work together for the competition, some of the students are not too happy. To make matters worse, as the big day approaches, the team members are shaken by comments made online and in person about them, and they fear they will never be accepted for who they are, yet together they rebuild their confidence and get ready to compete. However, in a moment of desperation, Lana confides in her teammates about a problem that is a much larger challenge than shooting a basket or nailing a comedy routine. When the C Flats step up to help their new friend, we see that what makes these kids winners are not the skills they bring to Shooting Star but the size of their hearts.