A St. Louis School Teaches Only Refugees and Immigrants. Day One Tells Its Story

ESL teacher Keary Ritchie with her young pupils in a scene from Day One. - BRIAN O'CONNELL

  • ESL teacher Keary Ritchie with her young pupils in a scene from Day One.
For nearly ten years, Nahed Chapman New American Academy has helped refugee and immigrant children adjust to a new life in St. Louis. Now the transitional public school and its students are being featured in Day One, a documentary set to premiere at the 2018 St. Louis International Film Festival. 

Day One is directed and produced by Los Angeles filmmaker Lori Miller. Miller has acted as a producer for documentaries in the past and has directed segments of those films, but Day One marks her first time directing an entire film. 

"It has been a great transition. I guess as a woman, I kind of saw myself in a supportive role to other people,” Miller says. “It was exciting for me to try and tell the story without relying on somebody else.” 
Part of the St. Louis Public Schools, Nahed Chapman New American Academy helps children coming from war-torn countries who have experienced trauma and do not speak English well. The students study at this school until both they and the faculty agree they’re prepared for regular public school. 

"It helps them get acclimated before being thrown into public schools," Miller says. Miller and her crew filmed on and off at the school for the duration of a school year, ending in June 2017, and collected roughly 80 to 90 hours of footage. 
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