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Engaging Youth to Change Their School Environment: A Photovoice with Hmong Youth

1 January 2017


Hmong high school students have a high rate of dropping out of school. Health and social factors in a students life can affect his or her ability to learn and graduate. These factors influence educational success and school dropout rates due to school systems and social structures that are understood as the cause of the problem. Students’ experience or witness of aggression at school or in their neighborhoods causes emotional harm. Violence or threats can lead them to feel tense, anxious, and scared. It can lead them to feel hopelessness and despair about life and in school which results in them being unsuccessful in school and withdrawing. The social environment at school either reinforces the negative perception of the outside world or helps students grow and learn to shape their own world. Hmong SUN Photovoice project is an after-school program that is affiliated with Oregon’s Schools Uniting Neighborhood (SUN) in Multnomah County. Photovoice is a tool that gives a voice to underprivileged individuals such as Hmong youth because they have limited power due to poverty, gender, ethnicity, class, and culture. Photovoice was used as a tool previously by Hmong parents and high school youth to address policymakers and the community to understand the lived experiences of disadvantaged communities. Hmong SUN Photovoice will provide Hmong youth the opportunity to develop their personal and social identities and an instrument in building social competency. This program will bring the realities of the students experiences to the public and policy makers to urge changes in school environments. By the end of the school year, students will be able to identify issues within their immediate environment, thus becoming community change agents and improving graduation rates among Hmong students.


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