Not very long ago, I was invited to spend some time working with a group of teenagers from the South Dallas area enrolled in a summer program called Sight and Sound. It’s one of the programs offered by an organization called Preservation LINK, the mission statement of which begins with the sentence,
“Often we speak of our youth as the future while ignoring that they are also our present.”
I love that sentence.
For two years now, David Herman, the director of the program, has offered young people a chance to use video to document and explore their community and to strengthen the bonds that hold it together. The students get the opportunity to earn four college credit hours and make money as they learn.
The theme for this summer’s program centers on “social issues,” and on the day I was there the class was asked to list the issues that concerned them most. Here is a list of the things they care about:
trash in the community, poor recreation equipment in the parks, abandoned houses, increased homelessness, drug addiction, prostitution, poor condition of the streets, gangs and violence, lack of school funding, old hand-me-down textbooks, lack of support for extra-curricular activities, child safety, public gambling (specifically violence associated with shooting dice), hazardous waste, domestic violence, random shooting, child abuse, teen pregnancy.
The list is remarkable in that the students were advised, as would-be documentarians on a tight schedule, to list only those issues that involved locations or people they knew and could easily access.
I spoke with David yesterday, and he told me that the class has decided to focus on teen pregnancy, abandoned houses, and parental awareness/child safety. Their projects are due in August.
If you go to Preservation LINK’s website and check out the gallery, you can see a photographic exhibition called Through the Eyes of Our Children. Unpretentious and straightforward, these often very moving photographs were created a few years ago and are the result of a media literacy program conducted by Preservation LINK with students from various DISD schools.