TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A reality show highlighting the real problems Topeka teens face premieres Tuesday night. A&E’s “Undercover High” was shot during the 2016-2017 school year at Highland Park High School. The show attempts to show what it’s really like to be a teenager today.
“Throughout my life I’ve experienced poverty, homelessness and some forms of bullying,” said D’Andre Phillips.
Phillips graduated from Highland Park in 2017 and he’s one of a group of students highlighted in the new reality show. He and others at Highland Park got a sneak peak at the first episode Monday afternoon.
“You know, it’s my life,” Phillips said. “I lived that moment and to everyone else they just think it’s a TV show.”
District leaders held a panel discussion after the viewing, hosted by former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, to explain what they hoped to learn from the experience.
“Students are exposed to so many other things that we have not seen that we were not exposed to just five years ago,” said Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson during the panel discussion.
A good portion of the first episode deals with social media and the harassment teenage girls face on a daily basis.
“How do we empower women today to know that not only do they have a voice but they also have the right to be respected as women and leaders,” said Anderson.
By bringing issues like these to a national audience, school leaders hope it will push parents and other family members to be more engaged with their teens.
“Be that listening ear, but also be the person to probe,” said Dr. Beryl New, former Highland Park principal. “For some kids, the life on a cell phone is a secret life.”
“Undercover High” premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. on A&E.