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2 people shot in JC December 22, 2014

Project to use photography to empower youth

An international project designed to let young people voice their advocacy for community improvement is coming to Callaway County.

Central Missouri Community Action is sponsoring the PhotoVoice program for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students in Callaway and Audrain counties. The program allows students to create a photography portfolio of issues related to community betterment and then discuss them in a number of topical courses.

Callaway County community organizer Tad Dobyns said CMCA had sponsored PhotoVoice projects elsewhere in its eight-county region, but this was the first year that Callaway County had been involved. He said he is pulling from South Callaway Middle School and the Missouri School for the Deaf to give the project an “aspect of city and rural.”

Said Dobyns: “The whole program is to let them (youth) know their opinion does matter and the picture speaks a thousand words; it can capture a lot of things because as adults what we see is a lot of times different than what they see.”

The eight-week program begins late February and will culminate in mid-April with public presentations of the student’s photography.

The project aims to cover problems with basic needs, such as safe and affordable housing and transportation to topics such as music and sport programs, economic development and nutrition. Examples of PhotoVoice entries include photos showing stores near schools that stock beer and cigarettes right at the entrance, or “kid-friendly” neighborhoods that don’t have sidewalks.

Dobyns is working with school counselors to find students who may be interested in participating and hopes to have about 10 local students between the schools. Dobyns said the project should be beneficial not just for local students, but for their communities.

“The goal is, of course, the engagement of the youth who are participating and to let them know they are part of the community, and to teach them advocacy,” he said. “Things might not be changed overnight, but they also might be things that weren’t really brought to the awareness of others.”

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