Camera Lens Gives Youth a New View Of Violence, Resilience, and Community

An ambitious pilot program using photography to help young teens cope with violence and become more resilient and community-oriented is now displaying its success for all to see. In partnership with Resilience High Point and D-UP, a public installation of photos and comments from the youth can be viewed on Washington Street in High Point.

One seventh grader spoke emphatically about his photo of a damaged building when he was interviewed for a story that aired on Fox 8. “Don’t let it sit there, and let it rot, and eventually be torn down, and turn into a vacant lot! Build a park. Build something that people in the community can use!”           

His perspective comes from Project Resilience, a program incorporating college mentors and diverse learning activities funded by the Foundation for a Healthy High Point.

Project leader Erica Payton Foh, UNC Greensboro associate professor of public health education, was interviewed by The High Point Enterprise. She explained, “Photovoice is a research process in which people use photographs to depict and describe social, environmental, and health issues that impact their lives. Photovoice is often used as a method to gain an understanding of health issues that impact youth, including community violence.”

She described how the photovoice aspect of the program involved sending middle schoolers and their college-age mentors on assigned “photo missions” around the city. The youth were asked to take pictures representing what they like about their community, what they think are the causes and consequences of community violence, and what they would like to see more of in the community to promote peace.


Gaining new perspective
The novel program used more than photography to help young people see their community in new ways and to think of new possibilities. Before the youth went out with cameras, they focused on learning and behavior outcomes associated with Community Resiliency Model (CRM) training. CRM is designed for adults and was modified for Project Resilience by staff of the Funded Partner, UNC Greensboro Center for Housing and Community Studies.

One student told Fox 8 that he learned about “communication and how to de-escalate situations. I feel like if that was implemented for everybody, then there would be a lot less violence.”

Another Photovoice participant showed how empathy might deter violence. He talked about how misunderstanding could prompt violence and how he would remove the motivation. The young teen said, “I can give them that person’s perspective because I have seen it.”


National recognition
The initial results were so positive that project leaders were invited to present their findings at the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research conference this fall. The UNC researchers reported that by the end of the eight-week program, 100% of participants could identify and describe the root causes of violence and opportunities/solutions to preventing violence in their communities.

Key partnerships helped achieve the program goals. D-UP, a youth-serving organization, provided a place to meet and serve lunch, as well as transportation—an unanticipated need. For the 11 youth participants, the program recruited 11 college mentors, drawing from High Point University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

 

Future plans
UNCG staff are already thinking about ways to maintain and improve the program. While still addressing resiliency skills, they have expressed interest in incorporating an entrepreneurial and financial literacy component. Based upon findings from the Photovoice Project, unequal access to economic opportunities emerged as a major concern and risk factor for youth and community violence and the city of High Point.

They would also like to add a “train the trainer” component so that youth and college participants can become community leaders and train other peers with the Community Resiliency Model.


See the exhibit at
Washington Street Park, 738 Washington St., High Point, NC, 27260, 7am – 9pm 

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