As the founder of Beyond the Race to Nowhere, Vicki Abeles has ignited a grassroots movement to reimagine healthy schools, healthy childhood, and a healthy society.

About Founder and Filmmaker Vicki Abeles

Fueled by a passion to bring childhood, schools, and society to a healthier place, Vicki Abeles is a former Wall Street attorney who turned to filmmaking when she noticed that children across the U.S. were struggling with a silent epidemic of school stress, including her own kids. A two-year investigation into America’s education system grew into the award-winning documentary Race to Nowhere, which uncovers ways our obsessive achievement culture undercuts children’s health, growth, and learning.

Vicki found herself in the spotlight, known by some as “the anti-tiger mother,” as the film ignited a grassroots movement bent on restoring student well-being, transforming education, and redefining success. Through a cutting-edge community distribution model, Race to Nowhere became one of the most watched documentaries ever produced, watched by millions of viewers around the globe. Over a decade later, the film continues to resonate with diverse stakeholders—students, teachers, parents, administrators, and health professionals—who use the film as a tool to spark dialogue and inspire community-driven action.

Vicki’s follow-up film, Beyond Measure, helped to answer a question posed by many she met: “What can we do?” and picks up where Race to Nowhere leaves off, offering a positive picture of what’s possible in education. Her New York Times best-selling book, Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation, is grounded in research and true stories, offering practical steps we can take to revolutionize schools and reclaim children’s well-being.

Vicki’s currently in post-production on her latest film, Counted Out: Math in America, which shines a light on one of the primary roots of inequity in our data-driven twenty-first century. Continuing to bring communities together around the power of stories, Vicki consults with filmmakers, including as an Impact Producer for Chasing Childhood and High School 9-1-1. She was also an associate producer of the Sundance favorite Miss Representation (2011) and Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish (2014).

Her own children now grown, Vicki hasn’t paused in her passionate crusade to protect children’s health, and sees a once-in-a-generation responsibility and opportunity to transform education post-pandemic as youth face a national mental health crisis. She remains committed to helping individuals and communities recognize their own power in making the changes we all need.

A NOTE FROM OUR FOUNDER

My own awakening to the toxicity of the achievement race came the way it does to many parents: via years of trying to keep up with it. When my three kids were younger, our family spent weekends together, played in parks, visited museums, gathered around the table most nights for dinner.

But as my kids got older, their lives mutated into a state of busyness and stress that gave our home the air of a corporate command center. And I should know—I was a Wall Street attorney who saw her twelve-year-old daughter working longer hours than I ever did for law school. I decided to pick up a camera to expose this silent epidemic of anxiety, depression and disengagement that has infiltrated our schools, our lives, our culture, our society.

After releasing Race to Nowhere, parents, educators, and students reached out to me in hopes of changing their schools for the better. Instead of screening the film at commercial theaters, I saw the power of bringing it directly to communities in hopes of sparking conversation and community-driven action. A united grassroots movement bloomed, bent on restoring youth well-being, transforming education, and redefining success.

I have continued to make films that leverage the power of storytelling to bring communities together and inspire meaningful, long-lasting change. While my own children are now fully grown, it has become my life’s work to help make the world better for kids everywhere.

–Vicki Abeles