100cameras Program Impact: Students Sharing Stories and Building Empathy

Last year, the second iteration of the dynamic 100cameras x Voice of Witness storytelling program was implemented in collaboration with Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center (TEL HI) in San Francisco. The program is a seven-class course that empowers youth with opportunities to process their stories and create change.

Designed by 100cameras and Voice of Witness, this course provides the curriculum, equipment, and support for students to share their experiences through photography and personal narrative, building communication and empathy skills with peers.

Local partner TEL HI is a community center that focuses on meeting the needs of a culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse community through services that promote stability for families and build the skills and self-worth necessary for youth and adults to succeed.

As TEL HI’s Rebekah Foster said, “75% of our students are low-income, 22% are English Language Learners who have recently immigrated to the US, and 93% are students of color. Each student has their own story, but many are faced with the struggles that come along with these identities. Having opportunities like this one can sometimes be the thing that keeps our students motivated to keep coming to school. When academic success feels like an uphill battle, we find that programs that engage their strengths, give them a chance to share who they are, and connect with others offer respite and inspiration.”

The hybrid curriculum focuses on creativity, empathy, personal expression, and active listening. Students utilize photo activities and oral history interviews with each other to help them process their own experiences and connect with those around them. Through documenting the sights, sounds, and stories that surround them, students grow to better understand and appreciate themselves, each other, and their communities.

The class developed a book that features student photography and student-created oral history narratives. The book, as well as individual student photo prints, are now available for purchase! 100% of proceeds from student photo sales will go directly back to their community to fund much-needed educational supplies.

Educators and Students Reflect on the Program’s Impact:

Several of the students that participated, I saw them developing, being able to express themselves within their communities. Learning how to talk about their lives and their histories and their backgrounds. Some of our quieter students, I saw them learn how to express themselves through photography and how to look at themselves as creative and think that they have things to offer and that their perspective is unique and valuable.

Malachi Jackson, Program Manager at TEL HI

This program gives [students] a new lens to think about things, and providing the space and time for self-reflection can help them tap into their emotions, express themselves and build their confidence and well-being.

Rebekah Foster, STEAM Coordinator & Garden Educator at TEL HI

There’s something I want to say. Just like, how to share your story to others, to the public, to share to a person you maybe didn’t know. It’s a strange feeling. You might feel good because someone will listen to your story, and have a same feeling with you, but you might feel uncomfortable because they are very personal things and it might feel sad. But I just want to say: sharing your story with others is a very good thing. You should try it.

Luzhi, Youth Program Participant

One student mentioned it felt a bit like therapy when they were talking about their feelings related to their identity, and the teacher noted that it is therapeutic to develop a better understanding of who they are and why they gravitate towards the things they like. In that moment during the discussion it seemed like everyone became a bit more self-aware and empathetic to their peers.

Jamon Tyus, Cross Program Arts Specialist at TEL HI

The Voice of Witness x 100cameras program is supported by the Charles A. Becker Foundation.

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