White House Student Film Festival honors Austin’s Wheelchair Challenge story

On a rainy day in 2013, Austin High School student Archer Hadley approached a school door and waited for someone to open it. As water gushed down his back, Hadley, who has cerebral palsy, asked himself, “Hey, I’ve been to a lot of public places that have automatic doors, why can’t I do something about this?”

So he did.

Hadley raised over $80,000 through a wheelchair challenge: for $20, students and teachers could nominate someone to spend an entire day in a wheelchair or donate to the cause. Dozens of students and faculty took the challenge, experiencing firsthand the frustration of navigating classes, meetings, lunch and clubs in a wheelchair.

Inspired by Hadley’s story, student journalist Ben Root set out to film a documentary. On Friday, Root and his teacher Gil Garcia got word that the film was chosen from over 1,700 submissions as an official selection for the 2015 White House Student Film Festival.

This January, Hadley was joined by Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completed renovations. Gov. Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since an accident 31 years ago, praised the teen, “Archer is an inspiration, an inspiration for me and an inspiration for so many others.”

Austin High School is a Student Reporting Lab partnership with local PBS station KLRU, and mentor support from Lynn Boswell.

To see other SRL White House Student Film Festival submissions, click here

“The Archer Hadley Story”

Ben Root – Producer, Editor and Director

Emily Potter – Asst. Producer, Asst. Editor, Production Sound

Alex Treviño – 2nd Unit Director

Khunal Parkash – Key Grip, Assistant Camera

Keirra Ewah – Transcriptions, Production Asst.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


NewsHour Extra Lessons:

Student’s wheelchair challenge makes Texas school accessible