Smith-Cotton High School art students hope to raise awareness among local politicians to community concerns from a teenager’s point of view, with the goal of developing solutions.
The PhotoVoice project asks participants to share their perspective by taking photographs they then discuss, narrate and display.
Michael Shukers, Smith-Cotton High art teacher, was approached by JoAnn Martin of the Pettis County Health Center and a team of researchers at the University of Missouri about the concept of PhotoVoice. The project helps create a better understanding and awareness of issues youths face in Pettis County.
“(PhotoVoice) provides a way for teens of this community to voice their concerns over issues … from their point of view. The Pettis County Health Center wants to help highlight teen concerns and hopefully affect change,” Shukers said.
Haley Barnes, 17, is enrolled in Shukers’s Advanced Digital Arts and Photography class.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to show the community’s leaders and local politicians what needs improvement and what is going well,” Barnes said. She also said it will help students feel more involved in the community and more important because people are listening to what they have to say.
“I’m hoping to gain a voice for the teenagers of our community,” she said.
Shukers said initially students were lost and confused as to what imagery they should capture for this concept. After a couple lectures and several teacher/student conferences, students were more comfortable and focused. Students had the ability to travel around town and capture imagery.
“After discussing their photography as a whole, we narrowed their focus based on certain photographs that stood out among the rest,” Shukers said.
Martin learned about PhotoVoice from Jon Stemmle, a faculty member at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. PhotoVoice relates to the Pettis County Health Center because it’s the facilitator for the Adolescent Health Coalition; Martin said coalition members are always interested in the perspective of the young people in the community. Its members also hope to better understand the world from the view of a high school student, and then translate that understanding into activities that will assist the high schoolers in leading healthier lives.
Martin hopes to gain a better understanding of what makes young people feel hopeful or discouraged in their world.
“We hope to share the photos with elected officials, civic groups and other audiences to share the world vision of one group of young people in our community,” Martin said. “Hopefully this will provide for us a better understanding for those of us far behind high school age.”
Martin is hopeful the PhotoVoice partnership with S-C will continue far into the future.
Cameron Newbill is a junior at Smith-Cotton High School.