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Whatever It Takes In The South Bronx

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Whatever It Takes is an award-winning documentary about the first year of operation of the Bronx Centre for Science & Mathematics.

Bronx Centre is a special high school located in "the nation's poorest district" - the South Bronx. It is one of many small schools in the area, organized as part of a New York City initiative to do something about the state of the public schools.

At the centre of the story is the rookie principal, Edward Tom. Tom is a business grad who was thriving in the fashion business when he realized his work was not very fulfilling. The father of three told his wife that the only part of the work week he looked forward to was teaching Sunday School, and the idea of teaching school full time grew from that. Tom is a zealot when it comes to children and education; he is exactly the sort of school leader every parent wants for his or her children. His ambition is to get these dead-ended kids to university.

Whatever It Takes unfolds over the school year. Events are told through four main perspectives: One is Mr. Tom's; one is that of a promising student, Sherifea Baskerville; another voice belongs to Madeline Rios, a social worker who grew up in the neighbourhood; and the fourth is science teacher Erica Balogh.

Ms. Balogh is a new teacher, hugely enthusiastic and ready to do anything for her students. The film shows how quickly the work atmosphere and various challenges from the kids can burn out the most dedicated educator.

The most arresting person in the movie is Sherifea, a very bright girl whose mom is a recovering addict. Sherifea and her brother spent part of their childhood in a foster home while Mom sought treatment. Halfway through the school year, despite acceptance at a special summer program at Dartmouth, Sherifea starts failing all her subjects. It is unimaginable that a child this smart and energetic could somehow get left behind, but the movie shows just how easily that can happen.

Luckily, Sherifea has the redoubtable Mr. Tom on her side.

Whatever It Takes is an inspiring film, to be sure, but it is difficult for the cynical to feel particularly hopeful or impressed. How many Mr. Toms are there to go around?

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Featured Author

Thomas Lockhart

was born June 8, 1953. Mr. Lockhart is a former Bronx resident from the Marble Hill section, and attended The Bronx High School of Science and Manhattan College. A former All-American basketball player at both institutions, he left for Europe in 1976 to pursue a professional career after a brief encounter with the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA. Continuing his education he actively plunged into corporate marketing communications with international companies like Philips, Alstom, Qiagen Instruments, KPMG, European Space Administration, ABN-Amro Bank and the Port of Rotterdam, while continuing to play ball and coach. Teaching English and advertising in Holland led to the setup of Ideas Unlimited, his own International Business Communications firm. Mr. Lockhart has lived and worked in various countries for the past 33 years, speaks German, French, Dutch and is currently learning Italian. Now residing near Zurich Switzerland, he has three children, Jarrett, 31 Chief of Staff with the Bronx City Council, 14th District, Maraya, 21 and Malik, 11. Tom is currently serving as Communications Manager and Asst. Operations Coordinator of the Marble Hill Reunion and Development Project.