Conor American Academy Food Bank

Conor, an 11th grader in the American Academy, is using his passion for telling stories to produce a documentary that will help people who are hungry. Conor is working with the Palm Beach County Food Bank's Empty Bowls project, and his documentary will raise much-needed awareness about the diverse faces of hunger when it premieres at the Food Bank's Empty Bowls fundraiser in December.

Empty Bowls is a national, one-day event to raise money for local hunger relief. In Palm Beach County, about 1 in 6 people don't know where their next meal is coming from. And more than half of children in the county are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at school. Conor knows that, despite Palm Beach County's perceived riches, many who live here go hungry.

American Academy and American Heritage have partnered with the Empty Bowls project to assist with the event, where amateur and professional potters come together with distinguished chefs and their signature soups to help fill "empty bowls." Residents then "buy" a bowl of soup, and keep the actual bowl. One hundred percent of all proceeds from the event benefit the Food Bank.

Conor says he was thrilled to take on this project. Just like the people he's featuring in his film, Conor knows what it feels like to struggle.

"I have a learning disability," he says. "That's something that's been holding me back all my life. But I've found ways to push through it."

He credits the American Academy program for playing an integral role in his success.

"If it wasn't for the school, I don't really know what I would be. And the opportunity for film and learning they've given me is astounding."

In middle school, Conor took a multimedia class and won an award for his "1 in 8 Million" piece. Since then, he's thrown himself into film.

This project in particular has enlightened him as he aims to help others.

"Having the opportunity to see firsthand how many people are seeking help and support to access food, and how diverse they are in age and ethnic background, you really begin to understand that this struggle is real," Conor says. "I saw people who were crying... who were suffering because they couldn't get a job that could feed them or feed their family, yet how thankful they were for access to the Palm Beach Food Bank and the local food pantries. This is about awareness, and I am hopeful that my documentary will open people's eyes to the suffering and need in their very own backyard."