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Hear our radio interview, originally aired on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ:


Story by Miriam Raftery, photo by Leon Thompson

August 28, 2015 (El Cajon) – Miguel Angel Soria and Peter Alkatib at Diego Valley Charter School in El Cajon are working wonders, helping 80% of their students—all at risk and drop-out youth—graduate with a high school diploma and go on to college or a career pathway. They are also co-producers of the Chaldean Voices documentary film debuting soon on KPBS and in El Cajon to celebrate Chaldean-American month.

About 30%  to 40% of the student body are Iraqi Chaldeans and most of the rest belong to other minority populations.  The school offers flexible scheduling to accommodate students who must work or raise children, also providing tutoring and other help to assure their students achieve their dreams.

Soria,also a teacher, has been involved in the arts from an early age including poetry, music and filmmaking.  He has also been program director at the New Americans Museum.

“ I think that America draws its strength from its diversity,” says Soria, who was eager to help make the film when Alktib approached.

The show will air Sept. 1 and Sept. 6 on KPBS and in El Cajon Sept. 19 and 20 for Chaldean-American month in El Cajon’s  Prescott Promenade Park.  The film documents the struggles facing students as well as a civics project in which students successfully lobbied the City Council to have El Cajon declare September Chaldean-American month citywide.

“For a lot of the students, this was the first time they could participate in the democratic process,” Alkatib said.

The two filmmakers and educators also offered an update on progress made by the four students profiled in their documentary.

“Everybody’s still in a very positive space and they basically see the film as a huge milestone in their life,” Soria concludes.

The film showing in El Cajon will be free, but DVDs are being made with proceeds to benefit scholarships for students.

For more information on the flim, you can visit www.ChaldeanVoices.com. For more information on Diego Charter Net, see www.DiegoValleyCharter.org.