During the fall of 2010, the Finding Voice students decided they wanted to explore the theme of social activism and examined their own personal social activist heroes through research, writing, and photography. As the first semester came to a close, the youth decided they wanted to take what they had learned about social activism into their communities. Based on their passions and interests, we identified three community partners to help us undertake civic engagement projects: International Rescue Committee, Drachman Institute and Imagine Greater Tucson. At the beginning of the second semester these partners presented to the youth about their programs, and the youth decided which partner they wanted to work with on a community project. They then conducted research and designed and/or participated in hands-on engagement projects with these community partners. Read about each project below and click to see images of their work.
Re-Imaging Our Campus
Twelve Finding Voice youth worked with two staff members from the UA’s Drachman Institute to identify ways to improve the quality of life on the Catalina campus. The youth used their writing and photographs about the campus to identify pressing issues (lack of shade, benches, and green spaces). By the end of the semester, the youth worked with the Drachman Institute to produce a landscape architecture plan to address some of these issues. The students and the Drachman Institute partners met with Catalina’s principal and both school and district maintenance staff to ensure that any plans developed were realistic and logistically feasible. After receiving administrative approval for their proposals and securing funding, in the fall of 2011, over 100 students and adults, ranging from the Catalina wrestling team to the principal, implemented the landscape architecture plan by planting dozens of trees and a garden and assembling new benches and tables.
Imagine Greater Tucson
Eleven Finding Voice youth worked with two representatives from Imagine Greater Tucson and Volunteer Southern Arizona to help ensure youths have a voice in an on-going region-wide planning process. In collaboration with IGT, the students created a survey to distribute to family, friends and students at Catalina to find out what they like about this region and what they want to change. They analyzed the data to identify common themes. Throughout this process, the youths wrote and took photographs of things they like and/or want to change within this region. Based on their photographs, data analysis, writing and field trips, the students identified possible community action projects that would help address things they wanted to change. They then chose as their action project to help a community garden (in the Garden District Neighborhood around Catalina High School) that provides produce to a local food bank in the area. In April, the youths also presented and exhibited their photos and writing at a city-wide IGT forum attended by policymakers and other key stakeholders. The students wanted their writing and photographs to be seen “by the people” so we worked with the staff at the Ward VI City Council office and the management company at the Park Place Mall to exhibit the students’ photos and writings in the Mall. We worked with designer, Jeff Speigner, and together created 4 x 6 foot posters that we installed in the middle of the Park Place Mall for the entire summer of 2011.
Refugee Youth Coalition
Fifteen students decided to work with the International Rescue Committee to create a city-wide Refugee Youth Coalition that would give refugee youth a voice in the community. During the semester, this group met with other refugee youth from across the city to develop a mission and vision for the Coalition. Throughout this process the students used writing and photography to document and share with other youths the pressing issues facing refugee youth in Tucson. The coalition was established by the end of the semester and is still in existence presently (2014).