Credit to Madison Abanathie

A new project at FHN aims to amplify student voices through photos, highlighting the good and changing the bad

Take a Picture, Make a Board, Spread a Message

A new project at FHN aims to amplify student voices through photos, highlighting the good and changing the bad

Published: March 20, 2018

Principal Erin Steep can already envision an art gallery of student thoughts. In her plans, boards full of photos, some creative, others more minimal, will line the auditorium walls. School board members, community leaders and students will meander, food in their hands and music in the background. It’s all in an attempt to provide a medium for students to express positivity and promote change at FHN. It’s called PhotoVoice.

The project began earlier this month with the goal of giving students a way to express their feelings about the school. Any student can participate by creating a board that balances positive photos with critical ones, both spreading school pride and drawing attention to any areas of concern in the building.

Steep brought the idea to FHN after she learned about the platform through Gateway2Change, a student program focused on race in the St. Louis area. After that, the group Students for FHN helped get it running.

“We’ve always had really good conversations with the student groups we have, but it’s always been hard to put those conversations into action,” Steep said. “When I was given this platform through Gateway2Change, I thought this is really doable and it’s really approachable and it’s a really good way to put all of those conversations we’ve had into action. I just thought it made sense.”

Each student who participates will get a board to decorate in any way. The main requirement is that each board has an equal number of positive and critical photos. Besides that, students can get as creative as they want. They can even include words, descriptions or poetry.

Once the boards are finished, Steep plans to hold a presentation day in May where students can show off their boards to visitors in the auditorium. Steep hopes to invite teachers, students and district and community leaders to walk around and take in the student ideas.

“I hope that changes actually start happening,” Essence Green, junior and Students for FHN member, said. “I know that there’s a lot of talk, but that’s all people do. They talk about everything that’s going on, but nobody’s doing anything about it. I really hope that doing [PhotoVoice] will actually prompt that change.”

Anyone is free to join PhotoVoice, and the goal is to get as many people involved as possible. Steep would like to have at least 30 boards to present in May.

“I hope that the students who participate feel like they’ve been given an opportunity to express their opinions,” Steep said. “I hope that the students who come see it feel like we’re taking student opinions seriously into consideration. And I hope that, if it goes like we want it to and like we’ve planned, that it gives students an opportunity to speak with people who make decisions higher up, those local decision makers and school board members. I think that’s really important, and it’s a great experience for students to be able to talk to decision makers like that.”

In the meantime, any students who are interested in creating their own boards can visit Steep to get started.

“I’m excited,” Green said. “I’m excited to be participating and I can’t wait for everything to happen and see how it goes.”

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