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  Cultural Place, Life and Future Planning, Media Center

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  Disability and Popular Culture, Career Planning and Transitions, Life Stories
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Product Information Graduating Peter

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 Full Description: 
From the HBO website:

Since 1975, federal law has given students with disabilities the right to attend class with non-disabled students, a process called inclusion. In 1991, Peter Gwazdauskas, a third grader with Down syndrome, became one of the first students with severe disabilities to attend classes at his southern Virginia elementary school, an experience that was documented in Gerardine Wurzburg's HBO special "Educating Peter."

"Educating Peter" made strides for the disabilities rights movement, and won an Oscar® in the Documentary Short Subject category, but did not tell the whole story. When Peter entered sixth grade, Wurzburg returned to Blacksburg, Va., to continue filming him. For seven years, as Peter grew from an adolescent to an adult, she chronicled his life, capturing both daily occurrences and formative events, from sixth grade through high school graduation.

The America Undercover documentary GRADUATING PETER invites viewers to take a walk in Peter's shoes and offers a glimpse into a world seldom seen. This unflinchingly honest film includes scenes that show Peter confronting depression, loneliness and the limitations of his disability. His deficient speech and communication skills often make it difficult for him to be assimilated at school, isolating him from his peers, while others' dismissive attitudes and lack of respect can jeopardize Peter's progress.

GRADUATING PETER also shows Peter emerging from his shell, gaining acceptance from his peers, and enjoying classic high school moments. In his senior year, Peter becomes the manager of the varsity boys soccer team, escorts another student to the senior prom, and, to the cheers of his classmates, graduates with a Certificate of Attendance. The film is a testament to those on the frontlines fighting for Peter's rights, especially his mother Judy. In meeting after meeting, she checks in with Peter's teachers, makes plans for his transition to high school, and later, into the community, and struggles to treat his complex medical problems. Through it all, Judy is there for Peter, waging a constant battle to build the best future for her son.

At the end of GRADUATING PETER, that future is not clear. It will not be without challenges, but Peter has learned enough life and job skills to give himself a fighting chance for independence, and a full life.
GRADUATING PETER was directed and produced by Gerardine Wurzburg; additional directing by Grady Watts; associate producer, Ali DeGerome; cameraman, Gary Griffin; sound recordist, Robert Silverthorne; editor, Barbara Ballow; original music composed by Geoff Muldaur. For HBO: supervising producer, Julie Anderson; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
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