In Sacramento last weekend Julia King, Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator, from LaCasa of Goshen shared with over 1,000 participants who attended the NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute what their resident leader team did for a project last year. Here is a synopsis of the project.
Youth representing four separate neighborhoods in Goshen gathered with their parents and CLI Team leaders at LaCasa in mid-March to learn about (and register for) a roughly six-week youth PhotoVoice project called "Picture It!" The kids (grades 6-12), watched a video about a youth PhotoVoice project and then talked about what sorts of images they might photograph to tell the story of life in their particular neighborhoods. They took photos and met for team discussions.
In photo top, Julia King, Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator, LaCasa
In a second session in late March, the youth signed ethics agreements regarding subject matter and received new cameras to use during the project. A local photographer gave the students an introductory lesson about the camera's features and about the importance of composition and light in photographs.
The project benefited the CLI participants by giving them an opportunity to learn about PhotoVoice and to hear (and see) what young people think about their neighborhoods. Both youth and adults benefited by getting together and talking about images from neighborhoods. LaCasa benefited from publicity and from the relationships built with residents during the project.
I remember one night near the end of the project lying awake in bed, thinking maybe the program had been a failure. It had started off well enough. Ten young people were issued cameras, given basic photography lessons and instructed to take photos in their neighborhoods around certain themes. Every other week, we printed the photos and broke the teens into two smaller groups for facilitated photo discussions.
Much to our surprise, most of the kids came to most of the sessions. Not only that, some of the kids even brought their friends. The clichéd eye rolls and bored stares never materialized. These youth were actually ENGAGED.
“Picture It!” was a PhotoVoice project designed to give “voice” (and image) to young people’s perceptions of their neighborhoods. Too often left out of the whole community development dialogue, this was an opportunity for youth to join the conversation.
“What do you like about your neighborhood?” and “What might you change about your neighborhood if you could?” These are the open-ended questions that were put forth to program participants. They were to answer those questions with photos. Some did. There were photos of trains and a community garden and the neighborhood mural; but many of the photos appeared to sidestep the questions. A family dog, a baby, balloons… how, exactly, could these images be useful in the context of neighborhood revitalization? The adults should have pushed harder, directed more precisely. Uh-oh. We sort of failed.
The project culminated in a public display of their photographs in a popular local coffee house.
Oh, but then it clicked.
Each and every image had meaning for the young person who captured it. These teens had expressed themselves, their interests, their priorities – and they had done so with the full support of adults. We opened up a space and gave them license to be themselves. And that’s exactly what they did.
Wow. “Picture It!” succeeded.
In photos, youth participants in PhotoVoice Project