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Grad student leads Roosevelt freshmen to define their own community

May 16, 2008

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    At a high school most often in the news for its record-breaking dropout rate and gang violence, students are redefining themselves and their neighborhood.

(Portland, Ore.)—At a high school most often in the news for its record-breaking dropout rate and gang violence, students are redefining themselves and their neighborhood. With the help of Lewis & Clark graduate student Kristen Goessling, Roosevelt High School students have undertaken a photography project aimed at giving Portlanders a more authentic portrayal of their daily lives.

 

Roosevelt High School, located in a low-income North Portland neighborhood, educates more than 850 students who speak more than 25 languages. Goessling, who received a $1500 grant from North Portland Neighborhood Services to pay for cameras and supplies, enlisted six Lewis & Clark graduate student volunteers to work with a group of Roosevelt freshmen. The Roosevelt students, all members of the Step Up program at Roosevelt, also received mentorship from Blue Moon Camera and Machine, Onda Gallery, and the Talisman Gallery.

Using a basic 120-medium format Holga camera, the students capture impressionistic images that often overlap the school yard with empty play parks, city buses, McDonald’s golden arches, and the unique peaks of the St. John’s Bridge.

“Their photos have led conversations toward a heightened sense of critical consciousness,” Goessling said. “We discuss their environmental concerns, problems at school with violence, police presence at school, litter and trash in St. Johns and at Roosevelt, and issues of racial segregation within Roosevelt.”

To showcase the photos, Goessling created a website, which allows the students to log in and edit or change their individual pages.

“This is a practical example of engaging youth to become active participants in their education,” Goessling said. “Through a process of collaboration and hard work, high school students, graduate school students, and community members taught each other about community, art, social justice, research, and empowerment.”

The photo project will culminate with an invitation-only photo exhibit on May 30 at Roosevelt High School. Goessling, a community counseling major, plans to write her thesis on the results of this project throughout the fall and graduate from Lewis & Clark in December.

“The students want their work to truly impact the decisions of powerful people in Portland —hopefully, in doing so, they will be better informed in making decisions that will affect all students,” said Goessling.

For more information:

Vanessa Fawbush
Communications Officer
503-768-7992
fawbush@lclark.edu