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Courtesy of Dan Habib

The movie “Who Cares About Kelsey?” premieres Tuesday at Rivier University.
Sunday, September 16, 2012

Documentary “Who Cares About Kelsey?” to be screened at Rivier University

NASHUA – Kelsey Carroll always had one goal: to graduate from high school.

The former Somersworth High School student faced plenty of challenges along the way, however, from homelessness and sexual abuse to ADHD. As a freshman, she didn’t earn a single academic credit and was suspended for dealing drugs.

“I didn’t have any direction; I wasn’t going anywhere,” she said.

About five years later, however, she is working for the Rollinsford Fire Department and looking to start college in the spring, with hopes of studying social work.

Local residents can learn more about Carroll, her story and the stories of other young people in New Hampshire facing similar challenges at Rivier University on Tuesday, when a documentary about the students will be premiered locally.

The event is sponsored by a number of groups, including the Endowment for Health, Southern New Hampshire Area Health Education Center, Lamprey Health Care, Rivier University and the Greater Nashua Mental Health Center.

“Who Cares About Kelsey?” is a project of the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability.

Dan Habib, a filmmaker with UNH and a former Concord Monitor photographer, led the project. He said working with Carroll was a perfect fit.

He made a film, “Including Samuel,” about his son with cerebral palsy, which looked at the inclusion of children with disabilities in school. During showings of this documentary around the country, Habib said, he often heard from people interested in learning about what schools could do to help children with emotional and behavioral issues.

“That launched me on a search,” he said.

Habib’s search led him to Somersworth High School and to Carroll. The school has become known as a national model for helping students with emotional issues, and it uses a program called RENEW that positively reinforces good behavior and works to help students plan their path to graduation.

Carroll was involved with the program. Habib filmed her senior year and a year after high school, recording as she made her way into the working world.

“This story is really about a young woman on a bad trajectory and how a school was able to work with her,” he said. “The story is really her transformation, and how these approaches (at the school) can be replicated on a state and national level.”

Habib and Carroll have been showing the film around the country in hopes of helping other schools learn how to best support students with emotional and behavioral issues.

“I just hope that viewers take my experience and learn from it,” Carroll said. “Just that something is learned and a little bit of the world is changed.”

The event is free, but attendees are required to register.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or dcurtis@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow Curtis on Twitter (Telegraph_DC).