At the beginning of 2019, the YEP's presented their PhotoVoice Project "What is Needed for a Healthy Community?” at the Muskegon Museum of Art. In May, they presented the same exhibition with additional commentary and discussion at the Muskegon Area ISD. Local and regional teachers and policymakers joined the YEP’s as they asked hard questions about our community and the place young leaders have within it. Below are the PhotoVoice images and written narrative from the YEPs , so everyone can join the conversation!
I NEED A HOUSE
Homelessness – We all hear about it. We all see it. But do you know how it feels? Can you feel it? The cold air in the winter. The frigid air coming through your clothes as you lay on the sidewalks. Can you hear it? The cries of a mother crying as her child sleeps in the backseat of their vehicle. Can you even comprehend how people may feel when they don’t know where they may lay their heads at night? A future, a space, a home not guaranteed. This is homelessness. It affects more than just people with drug or alcohol problems. It effects mothers, fathers and kids. Probably even the person next to you. In order for a community to be “Healthy” you must address homelessness.
High School Sophomore
THE PROBLEM WITH JOBS
Jobs are the basis of every community. But as the years go on, prices have increased dramatically. Most of the time, the wages the employees receive are not enough to make a living. In addition to that, big aspects of life like medical expenses and paying for college have put many people in debt. This forces them to get additional jobs which can have a negative impact on family or friends. Even more so, the children who experience these effects, start a cycle in which it takes so much physical and mental energy to escape. In order for a community to be “Healthy” a person should be able to live working just one job.
High school Senior
I AM MORE THAN A TEST SCORE
My intelligence, my way of thinking, my success is dependent on this test score. These bubbles on the Scranton test reminds me how dumb I must look, because I know deep down my intelligence can’t be shown through fill-in-the circle answers. Anxiety fills me. All the “knowledge” that I have lost. But really all that’s lost is my ability to remember what has been imprinted in my brain for the last few weeks. I know that the education system is messed up, but yet when I see a 95%, I feel my life is over. My inner perfectionist screaming. And I can hear everyone else’s as well. We are more than just numbers. I am more than a test score. In order for a community to be “Healthy” education must be more than just numbers.
High school Sophomore
These scars on my wrist. I feel numbness in my heart. The tears run down my face. It all reminds me of the pain I feel. When I go outside, I see all their scars. I see their pain. Some are more obvious than others. I know when she looks in the mirror, she does not know her own face. I see what she sees but everyone else say “hallucinations”. Yet we are looked at as the enemy. Yet the enemy is our self to our own bodies much like cancer, lupus or HIV. We need help. We don’t need isolation or to be shunned but understood. We may live a reality you may not have to, but that does not make ours any less real. Don’t cancel my service or lock me up in mental hospitals. Don’t even imprison me. Help me. Understand. In order for a community to be “Healthy” hear me.
High school Sophomore
When I think of Injustice I think of Balance. Many things in this world is built upon Balance. It is sad that the very thing that keeps us safe and moving is the most unbalanced; the Judicial System. Justice is when something has equal consequences. Many events in our judicial system have lost its balance creating a scale that’s tipped to favor a privileged class. The blindfold represents objectivity in that justice is or should be meted out objectively without fear or favor, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power or identity. In order for a community to be “Healthy” you must have a balanced and equal justice system.
High school Senior
If we were all translucent, you would give me more. More money, more jobs, more chances at life. You would see how dedicated and hard-working I am. You would see that I’m smart and that I am able to work with little to no complaints. If I was translucent, you would see my heart is ten times bigger than you thought it was when I was brown. If you took a second to see me for what I can offer, instead of seeing me as a color or a percentage, you would see that not only will you gain opportunities, but we all will. Opportunity should not depend on color, age or gender; because in the grand scheme of life, we have to survive. And to survive, we need more. More money, more jobs, more chances, more opportunities. In order for a community to be “Healthy” everyone must have access to opportunities.
High School Freshman
I matter because I am just as important as any other living cell on this planet. I am an important role model in this community, in my school, in my house and in this world. No matter how much you try to shut me up, I will always rise to represent myself and others because we are all the same. In order for a community to be “Healthy” everyone’s role in this world matters.
High school Senior
There is value in churches, organizations, community, parents, politicians, businesses, non-profits, municipalities and educational facilities working together cohesively to guarantee that each child is mentored, nurtured and educated. Investing in your child as well as children in the community must be a priority. Just imagine a world where all children were valued and treated with an urgency of importance. Individually we can’t reach them all but with a collective effort, we can make a difference in their lives. The risk is too great not to invest in the lives of the youth. In order for a community to be “Healthy” the youth has to be the center of our focus through collaboration and partnerships.
Director of YEP (Youth Empowerment Project)