“Love Them First” documentary screening showing as part of Peacing Together project

Conner Hendricks

Mercer’s Center For Collaborative Journalism will show “Love Them First: Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary” Thursday, February 27 at the Bibb County Schools Professional Learning Center on Riverside Drive. The film is being shown as a part of the Center’s collaborative reporting project called “Peacing Together”, which explores solutions to youth violence.

“Love Them First” follows principal Mauri Friestlaben and her struggling North Minneapolis school for a year. Friestlaben reduced the number of yearly suspensions from 139 to only 4 in 5 years.

Friestlaben was able to do this by creating an environment at the school that children don’t want to be separated from.

“Any time anybody sees a child…that looks lost, forlorn, not taken care of, spread your arms. Scoop them up. Ask questions later, but love them first” Friestlaben said.

The film also documents Friestlaben’s struggle to get off “the list”, which designates their school as being in the bottom 5 percent in school performance in the state.

Sonya Green, a reporter at the Center for Collaborative Journalism hopes the film will impact the audience.

“The audience hopefully will walk away feeling inspired, but also feeling challenged and empowered to think about what they can do and how they might bring some of the approach to our school system in Macon” Green said.

Macon has inspired Frieslaben. Her school is named after Lucy Craft Laney, a Macon native, who opened the first school for black children in Augusta.

“Why name a school after her? She was amazingly persistent. She did not give up” Frieslaben said.

*This story is a part of “Peacing Together”, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to youth violence.

  • “Love Them First: Lessons From Lucy Laney Elementary”
  • 6 p.m. Thursday
  • Professional Learning Center, 2003 Riverside Dr., Macon, GA 31201

The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.