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ACT for Youth introduces PhotoVoice to Career Explorations participants

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news-2014-careerex-photovoice-inpost2As part of the 4-H Career Explorations program, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence hosted a three-day “Focus for Teens” workshop to introduce youth to a qualitative, participatory action research method called PhotoVoice. Thirteen youth participants explored the question, “How youth-friendly is Ithaca?” from the perspective of potential college students. The project was led by Mary Maley and the ACT for Youth research and evaluation team, including Amanda Breese, Christine Heib, Brian Maley, Jennifer True Parise, Amanda Purington, and Divine Sebuharara.

In an interactive, small group format, participants were introduced to social science research methods, and how research can be used to mobilize community action. They learned how to tell a story with photographs, including the elements of photography they could use to highlight their perspectives as they gathered data.

The group identified and discussed the qualities of youth-friendliness that they would look for in a college town. Then, in a hands-on field trip with digital cameras, they visited three locations in the city of Ithaca to take pictures.


Participants evaluating photos

Over 100 photos were selected by the youth for analysis, which was conducted using an iterative grounded theory approach. Three themes were identified: mobility (including accessibility and transportation), aesthetics (including both the natural and built environment), and amenities (including services for youth, jobs, entertainment, and food).

Results highlighted the presence of youth-friendly qualities in the city, including the use of color, art, and greenery in public spaces, along with available bus service and a variety of shops and restaurants. Some unfriendly qualities the youth identified included buildings, streets, and sidewalks in need of repair, and the amount of advertising for alcohol and smoking products. At the conclusion of the program, youth participants presented their results in a poster session for BCTR faculty, staff, and invited guests.

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Photovoice: Using Participatory Action Research with Youth

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BCTR’s ACT for Youth helped to launch a Photovoice project to amplify youth voice in Rochester, New York. Photovoice is a participatory action research method that allows participants to document, describe, assess, and begin to change critical aspects of their community. Through the process, participants use photography to create a striking visual record of a community’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to a particular issue, engage in critical discussion of the issue, document that discussion, and plan action steps.

ACT for Youth provided training in Photovoice to youth participants and staff of Rochester adolescent HIV prevention programs, including ABC Action Front Center, the City of Rochester, and the MOCHA Center. Youth and adults alike embraced the process with enthusiasm and commitment. The young people involved have gone on to form a cross-agency advisory board, exploring ways to advocate for condom availability, school-based health clinics, and stepped-up comprehensive sexual health education in the Rochester City Schools. Their photos have been exhibited throughout the city and in the online Photovoice video Youth Creating Positive Change in their Community, written and produced by Youth 4 Change at ABC Action Front Center. ACT for Youth is also assisting a similar project launch in New York City.


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