A documentary following a special-education teacher as she prepares her students with autism to leave high school and enter adult life is set for its national television debut.
The film “Best Kept Secret” examines the transition process through the eyes of teacher Janet Mino and her six students at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, N.J. over the year-and-a-half prior to their graduation in the spring of 2012.
Teaching at an inner-city public school where students’ options after aging out are limited, Mino is determined to find opportunities for her students to succeed in the community so that they don’t become homebound, institutionalized or homeless after graduating.
Central to the story are Erik, the most high-functioning member of the class who dreams of working at Burger King; Quran whose father worries that the emphasis on education at school means he is not spending enough time learning basic life skills; and Robert who struggles with behavior and has a difficult home life leading him to miss class often.
Mino investigates everything from a jobs program and recreation center to a medical daycare and a local fast-food restaurant in hopes of opening doors for her students.
“This is a personal story about some young men who live with (autism) and their very dedicated teacher in one remarkable school. It’s about the struggles they face beyond the confines of that school,” said Samantha Buck, the film’s director, who indicated that she was inspired to tell a story about how autism affects those from minority and less-financially-secure backgrounds.
“Best Kept Secret” premieres Friday at theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will be broadcast nationally on PBS’ POV series Sept. 23 at 10 p.m. ET.