Students started with journaling and reading about health issues, while simultaneously learning the basics of digital photography and the fundamentals of both visual and textual literacy. We met with local health care workers and the youth shared their stories with each other and these guests. They worked collaboratively to create personal essays, letters, or poems with strong photographs which would send an important message to their peers and to the larger Tucson community.
The resulting work included photographs that were complex, often abstract, and painful to look at, as well as pieces of writing that were honest, insightful, and heart-wrenching. It was a heavy project, with a strong message. The collective product was a cry for support, community, and caring. Students made this plea both at our community forum held in December of 2007 and in a follow-up meeting in January with Tucson Unified School District nursing and refugee support staff. Students shared their photos and excerpts from their text. They dialoged with each other, with family members, and with community and school members. They came together to support and heal each other, while suggesting ways to support other students and their families.
As you read their writing, try to keep in mind the trust these youth have placed in you. They share their most intimate thoughts and struggles with you, in hopes that their experiences will shape perception and help individuals move one step closer to a place of health and well-being. As you read, consider what you can do in your life to improve your health and that of all you care about in the community and world around you. If it is in your means to reach out to someone in need of a friend, medical care, or other support, please do so. Health is wealth, they say. Both individually and collectively, we must work to build this most precious wealth.
– Julie Kasper, ESL/English Teacher, LEARN Center, Catalina High School