Derek Grace

Why is College Week important?

Spencer Technology Academy is located in one of Chicago’s largest, toughest and most poverty ridden communities. Students at Spencer typically do not have access to anyone who has attended college except their teachers. They view nightly news stories that portray their community in the worse light.  Although the teachers at Spencer are well aware of these grim facts, they continue to program their students for success and achievement.

College Week is needed right now, because public education in underserved communities is viewed in a very negative light.  A lot of parents believe their children are being programmed for failure rather than success.  The public schools in Chicago have a long track record of low performance and underachievement.  College Week challenges low expectations and illustrates that students can become high achievers despite severe conditions.  It illustrates that all stake holders (principals, administrators, teachers, parents and students) must get involved in the education process.

I pursued this project because I want other schools in underserved communities to see the innovative work being done at Spencer Technology Academy.  I ultimately want other schools to implement some form of College Week.  

I am the best person to tell this story because I am passionate about helping people.  I love to see people overcome extreme circumstances and exceed beyond expectations.  I am also the best person to tell this story because I have tremendous access to the teachers, students and school administrators at Spencer Technology Academy.  

As president of GRACE Media Group, Derek Grace has produced documentaries and promotional videos for the past 20 years.  Before pursuing a career in video production, Derek spent 10 years as a computer programmer and systems engineer with IBM Corporation.  Derek received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from UCLA, and a Masters of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He served on the board of directors for Chicago Access Network Television for 5 years.  He currently serves on the Community Council for the Black Harvest Film Festival .

Derek has been passionately involved and deeply committed to youth programs for many years.  He has produced several video projects dealing with day-to-day issues facing teenagers.  He is committed to programs and ideas that bring about positive social change particularly those aimed at youth.


Derek won a hometown video award for his documentary, Long Live the SPIRIT!  The documentary chronicled the historic “Million Man March.”  He also co-produced an award winning documentary about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Chicago.  Along with his cousin, David Grace, Derek was awarded the “Outstanding Achievement Award for a Documentary” for Pirate Pride by the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago. The documentary examined the winning basketball tradition at Proviso East High School in Maywood, IL.


Derek is the producer and director of ON THE FRONTLINE: Taking Back Our Streets, a documentary which addresses some of the causes, effects and solutions to the senseless gun violence that continues to plague the Chicago metropolitan area. This documentary won the “Audience Award” at the 16th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival.   

Derek is a recent Diverse Voices in Docs fellow, a partnership between Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop.

The Director
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