The Northerner

Photovoice is worth a thousand words

Photo courtesy of Dana Harley

The Photovoice project asked high school students to photograph their barriers to graduation and their resources. Pictured is one student's example of a resource of getting to graduation. The photos were presented April 18 in the University Center Ballroom.

Amber Tewes, Contributing writer

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Mentor project connects local high school students and photography

It’s been said that one of the best way to become successful is to find yourself a mentor. That’s exactly what some students at local high schools received through a program called Photovoice put on by the masters of social work program at Northern Kentucky University.

NKU students in their second year of the masters program in social work were assigned a student with similar interests from local high schools to help guide them towards graduation. As part of the mentorship, the Photovoice project evolved. Photovoice asked students to take pictures to express two key questions in the task.

These photos were presented April 18 in the University Center Ballroom at NKU.

The questions the students answered — what are your barriers to graduation and what are your resources? — showed through the photographs many different situations taking place

The participating junior and senior standing students came from Dixie Heights High School, Scott High School, and Dayton High School. The students at these high schools were either picked due to circumstances that may have found themselves in danger of graduation, or volunteer joined the project.

Once the students met their mentor in the fall they began to meet up on a regular basis at school, to help the students in any way they needed, help with school work, ask for advice or learn more for their future.

The photos were on display and broken apart into different sections, lack of support, health issues, negative behavior, supportive others, mental health, substance use, distractions and inner recourse.

Some of the barriers included drug, alcohol, video games, teen pregnancy and bullies. As extreme as the barriers were their resources were simple, everything from a comforting cat to wanting to graduate to be a good influence on their niece to faith.

But it was clear there are many more barriers than resources for graduating.

“Acknowledging personal barriers allows them to work through it and how to address and overcome them” said Dana Harley, professor and organizer of this event.

One social work mentor in this program was Shawna McCowan, she helped a junior at Dixie Heights High School. She said that “more exposure, hearing and seeing higher education encourage high school students to go [to college].”

Her mentee struggled with placing his time accordingly; he got caught up in video games and technology. She said, to her, technology seems great but to his generation it’s a barrier and misused.

Seana Creech another second year master of social work student is an alumnus of Dixie Heights High School where she went back and mentored a junior student.

When asked how it felt to be back at her old high school she said, “I didn’t realize how difficult it was for some students who don’t have social skills, or work engagement.”

The goal of Photovoice was to give students in need a support system like a mentor to encourage them to make the right decisions for themselves, according to Harley.

This is the third year this program has been run and there are plans to continue it into the future to help the students for possibly a full year instead of a school year and also a follow up program to see if the students truly overcame their barriers, Harley said.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Photovoice is worth a thousand words