teen voices project takes root in benson area
August 08, 2012
Editor’s Note: Omaha by Design is a financial supporter of the Teen Voices Project at Benson High School.
Some of the images are beautiful. Some are stark, and others are hopeful. Each was created by a student at Benson High School, and together, they capture a sense of what life in North Omaha is like today.
Works of art from the Teen Voices Project have been installed in a series of parks throughout the Benson-Ames Alliance, and dozens more are beginning to show up in area storefronts. During the 2011-12 school year, a class of beginning photography students at Benson High School (BHS) set out with their cameras to document the Benson area around a number of self-selected themes: diverse, selfless, historic, creative, successful, powerful and breaking stereotypes.
The photography project was conceived by Jerred Zegelis, a photography and journalism teacher at BHS, and funded by Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects. More than 140 community backers contributed funds ranging from $5 to $5,000. The funds allowed Zegelis to purchase a substantial amount of photography equipment that was outside the school’s budget, including more than 30 digital single-lens reflex cameras and a selection of lenses, tripods and memory cards as well as supplies for executing the public art component of the project.
The beginning photography students were mentored by a group of the school’s advanced photography students. Zegelis said the experience was a game changer for many involved. “Many of the students told me they loved the chance to be trusted,” he noted. “Throughout the entire process, they were in control of their own road in this class, and many had never experienced something like this before. They flourished when given the opportunity to be trusted to share their own personal voice.”
The BHS teacher said he believes students should have the opportunity to participate in more projects like this, projects that get them out into their community working together on a common goal. “Students deserve a voice in the development of a community in order for them to realize they really can make a difference,” Zegelis said. “These students are going to inherit the future, so it only makes sense to engage them now – to inspire them and challenge them to get out there. It’s just what education should be more about.”
The project will conclude with the production of a book that features all of the student photography. Zegelis said he plans to continue the project with new classes of photography students at BHS.
Click here for a map of the Teen Voices Project park sites.