Girl Scouts’ mother/daughter pair honored for award-winning film

The duo show the impact of dyslexia, from a teen’s point of view.

By Cathy Hirko

About 1 in 5, or roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population is dyslexic, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

Stacey and Faith Irwin Phagan the mother/daughter team behind Raising Faith: Stories about Dyslexia couldn’t be more astonished at how their short documentary film has touched a nerve – and continues to accumulate prestigious nominations and film festival awards.

Raising Faith was an Official Selection at the Waco Family and Faith International Film Festival in Waco, Texas. At the festival in February, Stacey and Faith participated in a live screening and talk-back session with educators and the general public from across the country.

“It’s been an amazing ride. I think it resonates because it’s a story about dyslexic struggle and perseverance from the perspective of young people,” said Stacey, film maker and a media professor at Millersville University. Stacey is also a former board member for the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) and a current member of GSHPA’s Strategic Planning Committee.

Faith was diagnosed with dyslexia sometime during first grade. Her father also has dyslexia.

Stacey said because the film – which runs about 30 minutes – is told from the perspective of young people in junior and senior high school, it’s more personal – and impactful.

“A lot of dyslexia films are about how to remediate dyslexia, and how teachers can teach dyslexic people,” Stacey said. Their approach went directly to the source – those with dyslexia – to share challenges, resources and offer hope. Faith interviewed all but one of the nine families for the film.

Stacey is currently working on her second short film and an upcoming Dyslexia Stories podcast, based on Raising Faith.

“When we started the film she was 15, and they [those interviewed] were talking to Faith. I think they saw a like-minded person,” Stacey explained.

Dyslexia is characterized by challenges with reading, spelling and seeing the written word differently on a page, screen or chalkboard.

Those with dyslexia are able to use strategies to compensate for reading challenges.

“It is a different way of seeing things,” Stacey said.

Strategies that can help learning include joining a group and doing read-aloud sessions, using audio books and finding interests to explore learning in ways other than reading.

Faith suggests using cards, Lego building sets and other hands-on creative outlets to explore learning for youngsters with dyslexia.  People with dyslexia have a “3D map in their brain and see the future in very vivid details,” Faith explained.

Experiencing the Waco festival in-person, and together was a highlight of the film’s journey, she said. By participating in the talk back, Stacey and Faith were able to connect with a different local community…“about their experience with the film and what it made them think,” Faith said.

Ranging from hope, joy or inspiration, Faith said integrating the “gifts of dyslexia” can create an edge in a career path or hobby.

“When we were making the film, for me it was about meaning making.  I saw these patterns and things I was trying to figure out, and I needed to let her voice come through,” Stacey said.

Raising Faith is being considered for the semi finals at the Austin International Film Festival. “We will know in the middle of May,” Stacey said.

Stacey and Faith are both Girl Scout Gold Award earners, and Lifetime Members. They are also members of Foxfire House at GSHPA’s Camp Furnace Hills in Lancaster County. Faith leads garden tours at Foxfire house and serves as head gardener of the “four-square” plot there, according to Kathy Ledzinski, chair of the Foxfire House Team.

The National Register of Historic Places site provides programs for Girl Scouts and is operated by GSHPA. Programs are based on Pennsylvania German culture during the 1800s. Ledzinski, who was Stacey’s Girl Scout troop leader during the 1970s, said Stacey and Faith are invested in preserving and maintaining the site, as well as supporting Girl Scouts in their communities.

Stacey credits Faith’s resilience and ability to connect with others as foundational to the film’s success.

“Faith was 100 percent honest with me on the film and that authenticity comes out,” she said.

Film honored with accolades

Raising Faith: Stories about Dyslexiaisa documentary film by Stacey Irwin and Faith Irwin Phagan. The film continues to win awards and nominations since its February 4, 2023 screening at the Waco Family and Faith International Film Festival in Waco, Texas.

Among them include: Best Documentary Short winner at 8 & HalFilm Awards and Naples Film Awards, semi-finalist at London Indie Short Festival and Berlin Shorts Award, and a Vesuvius International Film Fest Award Winner, among a growing list of accolades.

Raising Faith has received:

  • 9 official selections
  • 3 winning awards in the documentary short category
  • 1 top director award
  • 2 finalist awards
  • 1 quarter finalist
  • 6 semi finalist

For more information visit dyslexiastories.com

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