From the time Madelyn “Matty” Stamper got involved in the media program at Glendale High School, she dreamt of producing a story compelling enough to be submitted to the All American High School Film Festival.
“It was definitely a goal of mine since I started pursuing journalism at Glendale, so I was driven to do it,” she said.
She accomplished the goal this year, working with a partner on a six-minute film called “The Story of Stacy, Suzie and Sherill,” a look at the unsolved missing persons case known as “The Springfield Three.”
Stamper, the editor, said she and co-producer Rileigh Hutchens were elated to learn the submission had been accepted and will be shown during the festival, which is Oct. 8-10 in New York City.
“When the selections came out, it was probably the happiest feeling I have ever had. It was like a great sense of accomplishment I had worked toward,” Stamper said. “I was so excited to go to New York City with my advisor and with my partner. We were the only kids selected at Glendale.”
Central High School had 18 films accepted to the prestigious festival, the most for any Missouri school.
She said the excitement turned to disappointment in late August, at the start of the 2021-22 year, when she learned that the district was not going to pay for the trip.
“We are incredibly proud of the students from Central and Glendale who qualified for the film festival in New York City and we join in celebrating their noteworthy achievements,” said Stephen Hall, chief communications officer for the district.
Hall said the two high schools faced a difficult decision this summer regarding traveling with students.
“Early in the summer, as COVID-19 cases were rapidly rising and vaccination rates remained low, our program sponsors and trip chaperones made the difficult but necessary decision to decline optional travel due to significant health concerns and related implications,” Hall said.
“If a student had tested positive for the virus while traveling to New York, individual quarantine from the group would have been required and immediate travel by a parent or guardian would have been necessary to oversee the student’s extended isolation.”
Hall said the decision was made for the filmmakers and their sponsors to “remotely monitor the festival and safely celebrate” in Springfield.
“Our students have bright futures ahead and we look forward to all they will achieve in pursuit of their dreams,” he said.
Stamper said she understands the concerns about traveling during a pandemic, noting it put the high schools in a tough spot.
“It was ultimately the safe decision for SPS, but for the students who worked really hard to get to this place, I think it wasn’t really fair,” she said.
Stamper, who is 18 and fully vaccinated, wanted to find a way to attend the festival. As a senior at Glendale, this is likely her last chance to go.
“It’s something that is really important to me, to just kind of see the fruits of my labor,” she said.
Angela Baker, Stamper’s mom, asked for help on GoFundMe.com, an online fundraising platform, to raise $1,500 to $2,000 so she and her daughter can attend the festival.
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At this point, it has only raised $300 toward the goal.
“She and a partner worked very hard on a documentary based on the Springfield, Missouri’s three missing women and it was nominated for a limited screening spot where judges will vote and determine winners in different categories,” Baker wrote on the site.
“She has this amazing opportunity to compete and meet other young, aspiring filmmakers across the country, but Madelyn may miss out on the opportunity without the gracious help from the community.”
Stamper, the memories editor for the Glendale 411, and her partner chose to focus on the 1992 missing persons case because it involved two 1992 high school graduates — Stacy McCall and Suzie Streeter — and Suzie’s mother, Sherill Levitt.
“This is something I thought we could cover well, being the same age that the girls were when they disappeared,” she said.
The film featured interviews including one with Janis McCall, the mother of Stacy, and others frustrated by the lack of answers nearly three decades later.
Baker said she is proud of her daughter’s work and noted the teen worked on the film for a few weeks.
“I immediately went to work trying to figure out a way to get Madelyn to NYC,” Baker said.
Baker explained that, as a single mother, she cannot afford to send her daughter on the trip and to accompany her without help.
She said the funds, if raised, will pay for airfare, two nights in a hotel, cab fare and other unforeseen expenses. “I’m not familiar with NYC, but I know it is very costly.”