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Roosevelt ‘Through the Lenz’

Last spring, at a North Portland high school most often in the news for its dropout rate and its gang violence, students sought to redefine themselves and their neighborhood. Kristen Goessling–along with several other graduate students from Lewis & Clark’s counseling psychology program–collaborated with Roosevelt High School students on a photography project aimed at giving Portlanders a more authentic portrayal of their daily lives.

Ten Roosevelt students–all members of Step Up, an after-school tutoring program–participated in the project. They received training from Blue Moon Camera and Machine and were mentored throughout the project by Lewis & Clark’s graduate students. A $1,500 grant from North Portland Neighborhood Services covered supplies, including cameras. “The most important thing for everybody involved became the relationships that developed between the Roosevelt students and the Lewis & Clark participants,” says Goessling.

Roosevelt students captured impressionistic images that often juxtapose the schoolyard with nearby parks, city buses, the golden arches of McDonald’s, and the unique lines of the St. Johns Bridge.

“We had conversations about our photos that developed our awareness and critical consciousness,” says Goessling. “We discussed the students’ environmental concerns, school violence issues, the police presence at school, litter and trash in the St. Johns neighborhood, and issues of racial segregation within Roosevelt and Portland.”

The project culminated in two photo exhibitions, one at Roosevelt and the other at Lewis & Clark. The students’ photos are also available on a website.

“This is a practical example of engaging youth to become active participants in their education,” says Goessling. “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.

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