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Partnering with Critical Exposure allowed us to further develop the creative skills of the students and utilize those skills to provide greater context to the issues.
Critical Exposure began working with students at Luke C. Moore High School in Northeast D.C. in the fall of 2010. Since then Critical Exposure has worked with a new group of youth each semester. Their advocacy campaigns have focused on arts education, school discipline policies, extracurricular opportunities and other aspects of improving their school environment. During the 2012-2013 school year, our students created projects touching on issues that have affected their lives, including community violence and unexpected teen pregnancies.
During the 2011-2012 school year, Critical Exposure students at Luke C. Moore advocated and received funding to create a "zine" (or, independently produced magazine) that would highlight student artwork and share it with the Brookland community. Our students had identified a lack of creative publications in their school as well as a very sensitive relationship between LCM students and the surrounding community of Brookland as the two issues that they are interested in addressing through their photography. In order to work on both of these topics, students successfully advocated to their principal for funding, created the zine themselves, and then distributed their zine to the Brookland community along with a survey that asks neighbors to discuss their feelings on how to improve the relationship between the school and the community. We hope that this project leads to a semi-annual zine at the school as well as a longer-term project that will allow us to engage the LCM students as well as the Brookland community.
During the 2010-2011 school year, Critical Exposure students at Luke C. Moore fought for improved treatment from school security officers, more extracurricular opportunities, and the creation of a student-to-student mentoring program within the school.
While the students supported the alternative education model, the school's high-quality facilities, and the second chance that Luke C. Moore represents, they also identified pertinent issues that impact their educational experiences. Tony Cotton, a student from the class, noted that the way security guards treated students in the morning “reinforces the idea of us feeling like criminals. But we’re not, we’re students trying to get our educations.” Cheval Reid, another student, found an empty bulletin board that was supposed to list internship and employment opportunities: “They got the big words but nothing to show that they have the big words for a reason… We need these programs to help our black men and women to keep their minds occupied.”
Students critically analyzed the causes of these barriers to success, work-shopped concrete alternative solutions with their peers, and presented their accomplishments before two separate crowds. The first presentation addressed a group of ten teachers and administrators. Students then gave a second presentation to more than 40 members of the school’s faculty at their regular All-Staff Meeting. In the following weeks students reported more equitable treatment from security guards, new school-wide notices establishing consistent discipline standards, and an influx of afterschool and extracurricular opportunities.