For three years Sam Gruber ’20 completed, and very much enjoyed, the St. Anne’s-Belfield School’s Renaissance Reader program in which faculty members “sponsor” books outside of the curriculum to read and discuss with students. Gruber had a hunch that the Upper School community might like a similar option for film discussions. After asking Upper School faculty members if they would like to participate, he came away with a list of films to kick off the Verified Viewer program.
“I sent an email to the faculty asking them about films that they use for teaching and films that they just personally enjoy,” said Gruber.
“A lot of times in a class the teacher will tell us about movies to check out and that they relate to what we are studying. I saw that there was a desire there, with the teachers, to watch and discuss the films but no formal way to do that. Through Verified Viewer, teachers can sign up to discuss films under two categories, one that relates to a class and one that they just enjoy and would like to talk with students about.”
At the start of the 2019 – 2010 school year, Gruber announced the new program at an Upper School Community Forum. Shortly after, he created a student-sponsored list of films so that students can connect with other students for discussions (though students and faculty can also discuss films not on the lists).
“I know that students, just like teachers, have a lot of movies that they are interested in, are passionate about, and would love to talk about,” explained Gruber. “Now we have close to 100 films that students have sponsored in addition to the faculty sponsored list.”
Those who complete the Verified Viewer program, much like the Renaissance Reader program, will be acknowledged with a certificate at the end of the year. In order to complete the program, students must discuss seven Verified Viewer films in the course of the school year.
For Gruber, the program comes at the end of an Upper School experience enriched by the relationships he formed outside of the classroom through programs like Renaissance Reader.
He hopes to be able to pass the management of the Verified Viewer program to one of next year’s seniors while he heads off to learn more about film and media studies in college.