College & Workforce Readiness

Student Film Gives Voice to Struggle to Pay for College

By Caralee J. Adams — October 07, 2011 1 min read
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In Troy, N.Y., one in three children lives below the poverty line. Even for those with the aptitude and aspiration for college, money can be a huge barrier.

Madena Henderson tells her story of beating the odds in Troy in “The Haves and the Have Nots,” a documentary that was recognized last night in Washington as a top student-produced film in a national contest led by the documentary program POV.


Madena’s was one of 15 projects that received $2,000 grants from Project VoiceScape, a collaboration between the Adobe Foundation’s philanthropy program Adobe Youth Voices and POV, public television’s longest-running showcase for independent nonfiction films. Her documentary will be featured on POV and considered for broadcast in 2012.

The film shows Madena’s personal journey as she walks through her economically depressed neighborhood and explains how she wants to do something positive, go to college, and return to the community to help others. There are clips from her church, where the minister talks about education as the best investment a young person can make. Madena interviews her aunt, who raised her since age 5 and tried to instill the importance of being independent and having goals. When a financial counselor lays out the reality of college costs, Madena leaves the office saying, “It’s crazy how expensive it is.”

To make it work, Madena applies for federal financial (and receives a Pell grant), decides to live at home, works a part-time job 25 hours a week, and opts for a two-year school. This fall, she is a freshman at Hudson Valley Community College. Although she has been recognized for her talent as a filmmaker, Madena plans to study nursing. After getting her associate degree, she plans to transfer to a four-year university.

Madena will be the first in her family to go to college, and she hopes her film will inspire others.

“It’s important that people go after their dreams of going to college, even if they don’t have as much money as they need,” she says. “Education has always been the main focus on my life. Going to college is important if you want to have a good career.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.