He wears a black cap that reads, “I speak in movie quotes and song lyrics.”
It all started with YouTube.
Home sick a lot with acid reflux disease, Daniel Whiting started watching movie reviews online. He favored the funny ones, but they had substance, too, and that’s how he began to learn the language of film, he said: “What exposition was, what juxtaposition was, what character motivation was, and why these movies they were making fun of didn’t have them.”
Now set to graduate from the Community School, an alternative program in Spokane Public Schools, Whiting, 18, has made his mark as a person passionate about media – film and music, with a dream of launching a multimedia production company – but also for a generous heart and willingness to help.
“Talking to Danny or reading an essay of Danny’s is like going through a whirlpool,” said Gabriel Villegas, Whiting’s adviser. “He has so many thoughts and ideas, and you’re going to hear about them.”
The school is accepting of a diverse student body, Villegas said, drawing a relatively high number of students with autism. Former Montessori and home-schooled students also find a home there along with students who identify as LGBT or don’t fit in at big traditional schools.
“Danny is just emblematic of that” accepting attitude, Villegas said. “It’s almost like he doesn’t see the difference. Whereas other people can see this other student is a little bit off, it’s almost like Danny doesn’t see it. He just accepts people because they’re people.”
The Community School has just 115 students. While a traditional high school might have lectures, tests and quizzes, students at the Community School pick a topic, research it and create a project to present.
Whiting is known as someone who gets work done in collaborative efforts, his adviser said, consistently present despite bouts of sickness. And he has stepped up to help, just because help was needed: when the janitor needed someone to spearhead the school’s recycling collection efforts, when a particular student with autism needed a role model and a motivator.
“Danny would always give up his evening, his weekend, to help this other kid with whatever he needed help with,” Villegas said. “This other student basically got things done because Danny would tell him, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to get this done.’ … He’s a great model for his peers.”
Whiting’s own projects often are related to film, music and storytelling.
An interest in film synchronization led him and a classmate to investigate Jungian psychology; Carl Jung first defined the concept of synchronicity. Their final project was a video that combined an old silent movie with three David Bowie songs.
Whiting enrolled at the school as a sophomore, after his many absences got him into academic trouble at his traditional high school. He called the program “a blessing.”
“It’s a better work environment, more relaxed, less stressful,” he said. “You could learn about what you wanted to learn about.”
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