BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A documentary filmed in two Alabama prisons debuts Monday, May 7 to kick off a nationwide campaign to slow down the nation's high school dropout rate. "Inside Out" is a 52-minute documentary that features prison inmates promoting education as the only way for youth to avoid a life behind bars. It is the creation of Shelley Stewart, Chairman and CEO of Birmingham-based marketing firm O2 Ideas, and his business partner John Zimmerman, the company's President and Chief Creative Officer. It is a production of the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting literacy and the curtailment of the dropout rate nationwide. The Foundation is named after Stewart's mother, whom he witnessed being killed by his own father at the age of five in 1939 in Homewood, Alabama. The Inside Out documentary presents a stark look at prison life -- with inmates telling their personal stories of regret for not pursuing an education and graduating. Stewart compassionately interviews the inmates and unveils their genuine hope to give others the chance they no longer have, to avoid the pitfalls of dropping out of school. All of the inmates interviewed are either serving life sentences or life without parole. "What we are hearing these inmates say is that they want to keep young people out of prison," Stewart said. "We want to tap into this growing desire of a sizable portion of the prison population to communicate that education and graduation from high school is the only way to avoid having a life wasted behind bars." Stewart added that a shorter, 34-minute version of the documentary will be available for classroom viewing. "We originally thought Inside Out would be a PSA campaign, but it quickly grew into something much bigger than that," said Zimmerman. "As we filmed these emotionally charged interviews with prisoners, we realized we were working with the stuff of life itself. The passion and decency of the prisoners filmed in this documentary will have a life-changing impact on everyone who sees it," he said. U.S. Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) said, "The prisoners in the film Inside Out are essentially sending a 'message from the grave' so to speak. They are speaking from the end result of not getting an education. Yet, at the same time, we see Shelley Stewart 'speaking from the mountaintop' -- the end result of leaving the valley to pursue education and working hard. I believe young people, who typically don't realize they will face harsh consequences until they have gone too far, will listen to both perspectives and hopefully make the right choice. I fully endorse the mission of Inside Out and The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation and believe it has national importance." Borders Group CEO George Jones said, "The Inside Out documentary delivers an emotionally powerful and effective message -- dropping out of school is linked to dire consequences. Once a child sees this film, they will understand the stark consequences of dropping out in a personal and moving way." Stewart said the documentary will rapidly be made available in the state's schools, churches, youth clubs and community groups throughout Alabama and across the country. The state's Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education are already cooperating to endorse and promote viewings of the documentary. "We are grateful for the way that State School Superintendent Dr. Joe Morton and Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen, viewing the film at the same time, immediately embraced it and pledged their support for what we are doing," Stewart said. "Each day we keep our children in school and increase their formal education skills, we are making an investment in all of our futures," said Dr. Morton, Alabama Superintendent of Education. "The teaching message in Inside Out is clear: A life lost to prison is a life lost to a family, to relatives, to friends... to all of Alabama. We must do all we can to stop the loss of these lives. This documentary has application for everyone who sees it, regardless of age or social position." Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said, "We support the Inside Out documentary's message of education as a crime deterrent. We also appreciate the film's portrayal of some inmates in our prison system as human beings of worth who just happened to have made unfortunate choices and are now living with the consequences. We, like those inmates depicted, trust that others will learn from these mistakes. "We are also grateful to Shelley Stewart and John Zimmerman for taking this cause as their own, and encourage others in the private sector to support the film and get behind efforts to reduce the flow of inmates into the system. The DOC stands firm with the Alabama Department of Education in making sure the maximum number of young people, as well as other citizens, see this film." Stewart said Inside Out will also be taken to Washington to show federal elected and agency officials for a potential rollout in schools and communities across the U.S. To see a preview of the film and videotaped comments by Congressman Davis, please click on http://www.inside-outmovie.com/. About the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation The Mattie C. Stewart Foundation (MCS Foundation) was established in honor of Dr. Shelley Stewart's late mother, Mattie C. Stewart. Dr. Stewart survived witnessing his own mother's murder, suffering abandonment as an infant and severe abuse as a child. His mother and father both were illiterate -- the primary driver behind their tragedy. The goal of the MCS Foundation is to enable corporate and individual philanthropic giving to fund initiatives that are designed to keep young people in school until they graduate. The MCS Foundation partners with local schools, law enforcement and other community organizations that place a special emphasis on nurturing the growth of our children to the end that they stay in school long enough to graduate. The MCS Foundation is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. About O2 Ideas O2 Ideas, based in Birmingham, AL, is one of the fastest growing multi- faceted multicultural communications and retail branding companies in the United States. O2, headquartered in Birmingham, AL, has offices in Chicago and in Greenville, SC. Current clients include Borders, The Home Depot, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Intuit, Meijer, Verizon Wireless Midwest Area, Verizon Wireless GA/AL, Captain D's, BI-LO and Bruno's Supermarkets, Alabama State University among many others -- as well as numerous "pro bono" clients including The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 16th Street Baptist Church, bewhoyouwannabe.com and others. For more information on O2 Ideas, visit the web site at http://www.o2ideas.com.
SOURCE O2 Ideas