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We’re thrilled to announce that DiliaSamadova is the winner of our Free Community College Story competition. Your story inspired us deeply, Dilia — congratulations! Dilia will receive $2,000, which covers an average semester’s tuition at community college.
(Spoiler alert: This post contains details about the final episodes of 13 Reasons Why.)
When Katherine Langford took on the role of Hannah Baker in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, she knew she would have to go to some dark places. After all, the show tells the story of Hannah Baker’s life, and more specifically, why she decided to commit suicide.
In the show’s 13-episode season, Hannah’s struggle grows, with each designated “reason” for her death only getting more intense. While the beginning of the show focuses on things like high school bullying and friendship gone wrong, the later episodes deal with things like death and rape. And for Langford, the final two episodes presented her with her greatest challenges. “The further you go along, the more involved you become with Hannah and the closer I felt to her. And also the acts that happen are increasingly harsh,” Langford tells EW. “Episodes 12 and 13 made me a little bit nervous because as a young adult playing a young adult, these issues are so relevant.”
The issues she’s speaking about in the final episodes are Hannah’s rape in episode 12 and her suicide in episode 13. “I just wanted them to be told right because I feel so many TV shows and movies that have shown these issues either romanticize them or they use them as a plot device. I wanted this story to be truthful,” Langford continues. “12 was difficult because I put a lot of research into it. I spoke to Rebecca Kaplan from It’s On Us and I spoke to a psychiatrist who deals with adolescent development and there was a lot of conversation about why things happen in the way they happen, things like why Hannah doesn’t say no.”
Langford adds: “There was a lot of discussion that went into that about how we were going to shoot it. When we did it, I felt super supported and absolutely comfortable on set, but it was very strange because that act makes me sick to my stomach. It’s so sickening and it’s uncomfortable and it’s ugly, but that’s also why we needed to show it.”
As for Hannah’s suicide, Langford says the acting wasn’t as difficult as the goodbye. “That final scene with Hannah in a bathtub, that was tough and that stuck with me because it was the last day that Hannah lived,” she says. “Playing her for six months, you develop a memory and a history for what she’s gone through and by that point, I felt very close to her and I felt like she was a person. The story is so personal that when it came to that scene, not so much the acting side of it, but more the having to let her go was really difficult.”
The entries are in and public voting has begun on our #FreeCommunityCollegeStory video competition and we need your help! We received some very creative and inspiring entries about breaking up with student debt, which are all posted on our Instagram page.
Anyone can help pick the winners by “liking” their favorite videos between now and Sunday at 11:59pm PT. Then, the top three vote recipients will move on to our celebrity judges before Dr. Biden announces the winner.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative was born out of a conversation between two old friends during the government shutdown of 2013. Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited Mrs. Obama to his office to discuss how she could use her bully pulpit to support students. Secretary Duncan and Mrs. Obama knew each other from Chicago. They had mutual friends and shared similar experiences growing up there. And both knew first hand that education was key to their success—and that higher education in particular was the most powerful investment anyone could make. Secretary Duncan encouraged her to share her story with students, especially those who grew up in communities a lot like hers. She agreed, and after the shutdown ended, staff set about planning a visit for the two of them to the Columbia Heights Education Campus in Washington, DC, in November 2013.
Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy
Former First Lady Michelle Obama, hosts a roundtable discussion with students at Frank W. Ballou Senior High School in Washington, DC Feb. 27, 2017. Joining the students are Antwan Wilson, Chancellor, DC Public Schools and Cara Fuller, Principal, Ballou High School STAY
Over the course of a few years, Mrs. Obama and Reach Higher hosted events across the country encouraging students to own their futures by completing their education beyond high school, whether at a two-year school, a four-year university, or through an industry-recognized certification program. She moved the needle on FAFSA completion and recognized school counselors for the first time at the White House. She was building an influential legacy that would resonate with students long after she left 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But she knew it was not enough.
In February 2016, Mrs. Obama asked to visit small groups of students at schools in Washington, DC. She wanted to talk to kids in an “off-the-record” setting to get a sense of what they were feeling and to offer the advice she wished she had received as a high school senior. Most importantly, she wanted to impart to the students that if she could set her sights high and succeed, then any of them could do the same thing. She was no different than they, and she expected them to do great things.
She visited Paul Laurence Dunbar High School first, a school with a long, special history in Washington, DC, meeting with high school juniors and seniors who were surprised to see her walk into their school library. The students and teachers at the school were told that the school district’s chancellor was the guest of honor. Imagine their surprise when the first lady of the United States walked through the door.
After a round of hugs, Mrs. Obama joined the conversation, imparting knowledge about applying to college, navigating financial aid, taking tough classes, and even about the missteps she took as a college freshman. The students listened attentively, supported one another, and remained shocked that Michelle Obama was actually visiting them.
By the end of 2016, the First Lady had visited three schools and invited one class to meet her at the White House. She made it clear to her staff that her first priority as a former first lady and new full time resident of Washington, DC, was to continue meeting with students, her new neighbors.
Each visit has been unique. Some students want to know what it is like to live at the most famous address in our country. Others want to know what advice she would give to them about overcoming fears and doubts. All of them ask to take a picture, and Mrs. Obama always obliges.
She wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day with young women, so DC Chancellor Antwan Wilson arranged for her to meet with a group of students—some of whom had recently immigrated to the United States—at Cardozo Education Campus. They spoke for about an hour, starting with a discussion about their school, with one student sharing that Mrs. Obama had given her the courage to speak up in class and to start an anti-bullying campaign. The girls took Mrs. Obama’s advice about going to college and remaining true to their dreams. And, as always, she took a picture with the students.
To learn more about our movement, particularly our upcoming College Signing Day on May 5th, go to www.bettermakeroom.org. And follow us on Twitter at @ReachHigher and @BetterMakeRoom, and on Instagram at @ReachHigher2020 and @BetterMakeRoom.
The It’s On Us campaign has partnered with NYC-based indie band AJR to premiere a new charity single to change the conversation around sexual assault.
“It’s On Us” by AJR aims to highlight how we can all be a part of the solution to end sexual violence and be better allies and supporters of survivors. The song sheds light on the damaging and pervasive victim-blaming that survivors face, and calls upon all of us to fight against rape culture alongside and in support of survivors.
It’s On Us launched Autocorrect today, a brand new PSA to call out language that perpetuates rape culture and to continue the movement to empower every single one of us to be change agents on our campuses and in our communities — because we all have a role to play in stopping sexual assault.
These are the facts: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are raped on college campuses and it’s our responsibility to create an environment where everyone feels, and actually is, safe — and to take that responsibility seriously. It starts with calling out our friends and holding them accountable for using harmful language and making sure we don’t look the other way when we see something that seems wrong. Big or small, these efforts matter, and go a long way toward enacting the change we all want to see.
The Reach Higher and Better Make Room teams are excited to announce College Signing Day. We will be celebrating the week of May 1, 2017. We invite our partners to celebrate at a time that is best for their schedules, anywhere between mid-April to early June. If you are hosting an event, please fill out this form so we can stay in touch with more details!
Celebrities join Mrs. Obama for the 3rd Annual College Signing Day at the Harlem Armory on April 26, 2016 in New York City. The event, co-hosted by MTV, was part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative which encourages young people to continue their education past High School.
Every spring and fall semester, hundreds of campuses join together to host rallies, townhalls and teach-ins about how they can end sexual assault on their campus. This year’s 2017 Spring Week of Action will take place from April 2-8. You can sign-up to host an event on your campus here!