From Misfortune to Opportunity

Formerly Homeless Youth Explaining Privilege


When the Explain Privilege video was circulating the internet (on Facebook, and here’s some background), it caught Sheri Schultz’s eye.

I’m sure you’ve seen it: teenagers lining up to race for a $100 dollar bill, but with conditions like, “if you’ve never had to help mom or dad with the bills” take two steps forward.

After each condition the starting line disperses until it’s mostly white youth nearest the finish and black and brown closest to the back, racing for that $100 dollar bill.

Sheri is the president of the Schultz Family Foundation, co-founded with her husband Howard Schultz. Yes, that Seattle coffee guy.

In her foundation capacity she organized a private event. It was a chance to reach the privileged of Seattle, impressing upon them that privilege is not necessarily insulating and exclusive, but an opportunity to help others.

She wanted to use the Explain Privilege video, but somehow incorporate formerly homeless youth who found success in the programs of the non-profit YouthCare, an organization she’s long advocated for.

Stepping off the elevator at the Schultz Family Foundation.

The original request was to produce short documentaries of each youth. However, with the event in 15 days, I didn’t think it was enough time to do the work the right way: respectfully. Then, with the youth’s schedules, time was compressed to a week.

So I came up with a concept: show the youth the Explain Privilege video, then ask them to respond. I filmed it with four cameras and cut the video so all four youth create a single story about what it meant to find, and recognize, opportunity.

Their responses were incredible. These three youth, all formerly homeless, see themselves not as victims of circumstance but individuals with dreams, opportunity, and the ability to succeed.

They’ll tell you it wasn’t easy. But their stories show that non profits like YouthCare are resources for the less fortunate.

Fox. Got her GED, is gainfully employed, has an apartment near downtown. When she was homeless, there were nights when she slept in the alley behind this Pioneer Square photo studio.

Their stories also show when people of privilege are willing to support others— by serving meals, tutoring, offering internships, training programs, being a mentor, donating at a fundraiser — it will make a difference.

As Sheri said, privilege is an opportunity to help others.


Directed, Produced, Edited by Tim Matsui

Cinematography by Mike Kane, Rob Miller, David Ryder