I was in prison before I was even born. So begins the story of Victor Rios, a high school dropout, Oakland gang member, and three-time felon by age 15. But when a teacher’s quiet persistence, a mentor’s moral conviction, and his best friend’s murder converge, Rios’s path takes an unlikely turn. 20 years later Rios, by then an award-winning professor, author and expert on the school to prison pipeline, rejoins his old mentor to work with young people who have been pushed out of school for reasons beyond their control.
Filmed over more than 25 years, THE PUSHOUTS weaves Rios’s inspiring dropout-to-professor narrative with stories of YO! Watts, a youth center serving 16-24 year-olds who are out of school and out of work. A then-and-now story of unusual intimacy and depth, THE PUSHOUTS trades narratives of tragedy and victimization for true stories of grit and resilience, highlighting the vast potential of young people to thrive when given access to meaningful opportunities and connections to adults who care.