Best story yet to be writtenPublished 9:06am Tuesday, April 9, 2013
To the Editor:
On Saturday night, April 6th, 2013, I went to the Full Frame Film Festival in Durham to see the world premiere of the movie, If You Build It (O’Malley & Baer). This documentary covers the 2 years that Matt Miller and Emily Pilliton spent in Bertie County doing an innovative teaching program called Design, Build, and Transform or simply Project H.
This program was part of our early college curriculum and taught how design can help transform communities. The kids who did this program are no longer kids. I talked to several of them at the reception after the film. I loved what Colin White (now at NC State) said in the discussion after the film. His experience helped him see Bertie County as a white page on which our best story is yet to be written if we are not afraid of change, or not afraid to love people with different backgrounds than us, and if we believe things can be better. He is so right.
Matt and Emily gave us 2 years of their lives and left because our Board of Education at the time would never pay them a salary. Those first 1200 viewers became the payment for Matt and Emily as their cheers filled the room. I felt a little twinge of guilt myself for having not done more to help them continue their program in Bertie, especially as the crowd gave them and the students a standing ovation at the end.
There is a scene in the film that talks about students getting their hands dirty to help design and build a team spirit in a community. Ron Wesson, Bertie County Commissioner, the last to speak at the discussion wrap up, thanked Matt, Emily, the students, and the cheering audience. He told them the message they gave him to take back to Bertie was that their legacy in Bertie is in our hands and that we need the “dirt” of working together to maintain the good work started by Matt, Emily, and those kids.
Matt and Emily are transformative leaders who lead with their heart, brains, and body. They changed the lives of some kids in a way few young people get. They changed my life too. If you want to change your life then watch this film when it comes to Bertie soon. Matt and Emily’s future is bright and the legacy they have left us is now in our hands. Patrick Creadon, the filmmaker, has given us a gift on top of the one Matt and Emily gave us.
This movie helped me be more like Colin White. Thank you Matt, Emily, Patrick and the kids of Project H, I will never forgot what you did here. I hope to be a part of honoring your legacy. Get your popcorn ready Bertie. This film is full of lessons we all need to know.
PS. Thank you Dr. Chip Zullinger for bringing Matt and Emily to Bertie!
John H. Davis