Peter and his now deceased wife, Susan, co-founded and led Open Connections, a highly successful “unschooling” program in the wealthy suburbs for over 30 years. Now the founder of Natural Creativity, Peter has staked his reputation on his new school’s success, determined to demonstrate that his methods can transcend the boundaries of poverty and race.
Mikail is the director of a free after-school program and a longtime resident and activist in Philadelphia. The vast majority of children attending his program have one or more family members in jail. Mikail is certain that Peter’s efforts will ultimately prove futile because he doesn’t understand the dynamics of the urban neighborhood.
Miles is a creative 14-year-old boy who bounced from school to school. He was suspended from his public school for sexual assault allegations that proved false. His single mother, Marie, is at her wits end and hopes that Natural Creativity can offer a safe haven and academically engaging environment for Miles.
Jaya is a strong-willed 16-year-old girl whose popularity with students and teachers alike enables her to pass classes without learning. Her dad, Willie, can’t afford to place her in a private school and is worried that Jaya won’t graduate with skills if she stays in the public school system.
Amani is a warm and curious 13-year-old animal lover who was violently bullied at a tough charter school. She attends Mikail’s after school program and is desperate to attend Natural Creativity. Her mother, Amanda, is skeptical but after much debate, Amani convinces her to let her try.