What We Do
Finding Voice is an innovative literacy and visual arts program funded largely by the Every Voice in Action Foundation and Tucson Pima Arts Council and supported by the LEARN Center, Catalina Magnet High School, and the Tucson Unified School District. Finding Voice is dedicated to helping refugee and immigrant youth develop their literacy and second language skills by researching, photographing, writing, and speaking out about critical social issues in their lives and communities.
Finding Voice started in the 2006-2007 school year when educators Julie Kasper (Catalina Magnet High School ESL/English Teacher) and Josh Schachter (Tucson-based photographer and educator) collaborated with 46 students from Afghanistan, Ghana, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mexico, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan. Julie and Josh helped youth explore their past and present life experiences within the context of their Tucson neighborhoods. The youth were given cameras, readings, and time to allow them to examine their communities. They wrote, photographed, and talked about life in Tucson, comparing it to life in their home countries.
The resulting work, entitled “Home? Teen Refugees & Immigrants Explore Their Tucson” was exhibited in Vice-Mayor & Councilwoman Nina Trasoff’s Ward VI gallery May – July 2007. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response by the Tucson community and media to the exhibit, Julie Kasper and Josh Schachter have been working with Congressman Raul Grijalva and Councilwoman Nina Trasoff to expand the impact of the work by displaying the exhibit in Washington, D.C. It will be on display at the Tucson Youth Week Showcase in Tucson on April 24, 2008 and it will then travel to D.C. for exhibition in the Russell Rotunda of the Senate building during the week of June 2-6, 2008.
During the current 2007-2008 school year, Julie Kasper and Josh Schachter have led English as a Second Language students through a process of researching, writing about, photographing, and proposing change related to community issues students collectively selected. In the fall semester they focused their inquiry and self-expression through writing and photography on health issues. The resulting work, “Is Anyone Listening? Teen Refugees and Immigrants Speak Out About Health and Healing” was shared at a community forum held in December, 2007.
This spring 2008 semester, students are working on projects related to the topics of war and immigration. Their work, “A New Country, A New Life: Tucson Teens Share Their Experiences with War and Immigration,” will be on display in bus stops around Tucson beginning April 28, 2008. They will also present their work at our year end forum to be held at Catalina High School on May 15, 2008, beginning at 6:00 pm.
At these community events, students present their work and dialogue with the community about their lives and about actions we can collectively take to address the issues youth are raising through their art and writing.
CMHS’s extracurricular Finding Our Voice ESL Publications Club supports this class-based work. Members of this club participate in community forums and publish some of the work produced in the advanced level classes, along with the work of students in other ESL classes, in the annual ESL literary magazine. The magazine is a piece of the Finding Voice Project which offers a means of self-expression and provides language learners with an authentic audience. It also serves to open dialogue about diversity, social justice, and other issues on our campus and around Tucson.