Documentary “The Pushouts”—featuring UC Santa Barbara’s Victor Rios and Rebeca Mireles-Rios—airs on PBS on Friday, September 20 at 10 pm

Monday, September 16, 2019
Victor Rios and Rebeca Mireles-Rios

Victor Rios and Rebeca Mireles-Rios at the Q&A after the UCSB campus screening of "The Pushouts" in April 2019

The award-winning documentary The Pushouts (2018, dir. Katie Galloway), which features UC Santa Barbara’s Victor Rios and Rebeca Mireles-Rios, will air on PBS SoCal on Friday, September 20 at 10 pm. The film follows Victor Rios, a high school dropout and former gang member turned award-wining professor and author as he and his partner Rebeca Mireles-Rios work with young people in Watts who have been pushed out of school for reasons beyond their control. The film’s tagline: “People call them ‘dropouts.’ They tell a different story.”

“I was in prison before I was even born.” So begins the story of Victor Rios—a high school dropout, gang member, and three-time felon by 15. But when a teacher’s quiet persistence, a mentor’s moral conviction, and his best friend’s murder converge, Rios’ path takes an unlikely turn. Two decades later Rios—by then a 36 year-old tenured UC professor, author and national thought leader on the school-to-prison pipeline—gets a call. “Hey, hotshot.” It’s Martín Flores, Rios’ high school mentor, who he hasn’t heard from in 15 years. “I know you’re busy, but I need you to come down to Watts this summer and work with my kids.” It’s a make it or break it moment for these youth, Flores—who directs a program serving 16 to 24 olds who haven’t finished high school—warns. As he puts it, “We get them on the right path now, or we lose them to the system.” Woven with archival material stretching back 25 years to Rios’ own troubled adolescence and including the contemporary story of this fateful summer in Watts, The Pushouts examines crucial questions of race, class, power, and the American dream at a particularly urgent time. The Pushouts screened as part of the Dean's Lecture Series on Education, Diversity, and Democracy at UCSB in April 2019.

Victor Rios is a Professor in the Department of Sociology. His work analyzes the role of social control and education in determining the well-being of young people living in urban marginality; tracks the social consequences of the punitive state and punitive social control-across institutional settings; and examines young people’s resilience and responses to social marginalization. He uses insight from his research to promote equitable policies and develop programs to improve the lives of marginalized youths.

Rios’s book Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys (NYU Press, 2011), analyzes how juvenile crime policies and criminalization affect the everyday lives of urban youth. Punished won the Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award from the American Sociological Association, Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, among other honors. In his latest book Human Targets: Schools, Police, and the Criminalization of Latino Youth (University of Chicago Press, 2017) Rios finds the traditional good kid/bad kid, street kid/decent kid dichotomy is much too simplistic, arguing instead that authorities and institutions help create these identities—and that they can play an instrumental role in providing young people with the resources for shifting between roles. He finds that to be a poor Latino youth is to be a human target—victimized and considered an enemy by others, viewed as a threat to law enforcement and schools, and burdened by stigma, disrepute, and punishment.

His Ted Talk “Help for the Kids the Education System Ignores” has garnered over 1.3 million views. In 2018 Rios was one of two nominees for Vice President of the American Sociological Association.

Rebeca Mireles-Rios is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education specializing in child and adolescent development. She received her K-8 Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and MA from UC Berkeley. Prior to receiving her Ph.D. from the Gevirtz School, Dr. Mireles-Rios was a middle school teacher in Berkeley Unified School District for numerous years. Dr. Mireles-Rios’ research examines the educational expectations of Latina/o students and the connection to parent and teacher support. She studies Latina/o adolescents perceptions of teacher support; the role of maternal expectations on education communication; and student trajectories into higher education. She looks at the inequalities in educational outcomes to understand the processes that can potentially increase Latina/o high school student college enrollment and retention rates.

This airing is part of the acclaimed PBS documentary series VOCES, produced by Latino Public Broadcasting. VOCES features the best of Latino arts, culture and history and shines a light on current issues that impact Latino Americans. Devoted to exploring the rich diversity of the Latino experience, VOCES presents new and established filmmakers and brings their powerful and illuminating stories to a national audience—on TV, online and on the PBS app.

[Rebeca Mireles-Rios is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805-893-5789.]