Surprisingly, the work of a young spirit, unhindered by strict rules and structure of professional work, can sometimes move you in such a more powerful and authentic way.
I think this is partly because of the tendency of children and teens to vent without boundaries. When kids express themselves, their emotions tend to just flow out and this is apparent in their work. The amazing thing is that although most kids have had minimal training in subjects such as journalism, the impact they create can be immense.
When I attended the opening reception for Through Our Eyes: Midtown and Beyond at Studio@620, I roamed the studio taking everything in and began to remember what it felt like to be a kid and see the world from a different perspective — having so many mixed emotions about this crazy place we call a world and pouring my emotions into my writing. These kids had so much to say and they communicated with journalism.
Students in journalism classes from three different schools participated, as a part of the Journeys in Journalism program. For the past 11 years, this organization has been immersing students of all ages in the world of journalism. Participating schools were Melrose Elementary, John Hopkins Middle and Lakewood High.
Photos hung on walls around the room — each school had its own wall of work. Upon entering I wasn’t really sure where to begin — but the great thing was that it didn’t matter. You could jump in anywhere and learn a new tale highlighting anything from adventure to misfortune.
In these simple black and white snapshots, students demonstrated a piece of their lives — whether it was a hobby, place they liked to visit or personal story. Some of the photos were accompanied with a piece of writing.
Ninth grader Kristoff Taviere of Lakewood High School had a photo displayed of her black bicycle lying upside down with sun streaming through the spokes.
She wrote, “It seems like life had no meaning to me before I started riding my bike. It’s like I had to go on a quest to find out a reason for me to live, and at the end of the journey I found a white bicycle that I changed to a darker color.”
Accompanying a photo of his home in Childs Park, fifth grader Isaiah Battle of Melrose Elementary School, told a tale of violence and children’s games.
“Life at Childs Park is bad, because it has drive-bys and other stuff, like people getting killed. Sometimes there’s a whole bunch of police.”
He went on to describe the positives of his neighborhood.
“The park is a place I can go to when I’m mad and where I can talk to people. I can play with my friends and meet new friends. We go to the playground and play tag or hide-and-go-seek. And that’s why I like my neighborhood,” he wrote.
Krysta Muehlendyck, eighth grader at John Hopkins Middle School wrote about some of her favorite spots in her neighborhood, explaining what components make it peaceful and help her relax.
Students, family members and random wanderers made their way into the studio. Even members of the St. Petersburg City Council, such as Jeff Danner, made appearances. The John Hopkins Middle School band entertained throughout the duration of the exhibit.
The journalism teachers from the participating schools were also present. Kathleen Tobin, journalism teacher at Lakewood High School said she was impressed with the quality of work her students produced.
“We told them to focus on something they wanted to write about,” Kathleen Tobin, journalism teacher at Lakewood High School said. “They’re writing in first person about themselves, rather than traditional journalism.”
What I found most impressive of all was the multimedia. Each school had its own selection of videos, or combinations of photos with voice-overs created by students, taking the viewer through a significant story or issue.
A student from Melrose Elementary presented a multimedia piece portraying life with a mother who has multiple sclerosis. In the piece, the student introduced a variety of pictures along with a voiceover from the mother describing life with the disease.
“You have to cope with what you have,” said the mother. “I’d rather have my disease than some other diseases that are out there.”
Altogether, the exhibit was captivating and eye-opening. Maybe the work wasn’t journalism in the traditional sense, but it was definitely insightful and true to life. I left the event feeling like I gained something, and isn’t that what it’s about in the end?
Final day of exhibition is Fri., Oct. 26, noon-4 p.m. at Studio@620, 620 First. Ave. S, St. Petersburg. studio620.org.