IN-SCHOOL PROJECTS: SOCIAL JUSTICE
In 2010, AjA implemented its newest arts-based initiative – the Social Justice Program, for the purpose of increasing youths’ self-efficacy, reducing bullying, and creating more inclusive school environments. Building on the Journey and Cultural Literacy Programs, the Social Justice Program uses photography as an alternative tool for teaching at-risk youth about identity and social issues. The program was designed and piloted by AjA, during the school day, for the entire 9th and 10th grade class enrolled in Lincoln High School’s Center for Social Justice. This program complimented the coursework offered through the Center, and offered students an innovative and visual approach for exploring how their race, class and gender intersected with current social issues.
The program expanded the use of AjA’s effective participatory photography tool by running an arts-based programming during the school day, and diversified participants by including at-risk teens in San Diego’s low-income communities. The success of the pilot provided a platform for AjA to champion the use of using visual arts during the school day to teach traditional educational standards. Visual arts-based programming helps youth build cultural literacy and discuss social tension in a non-threatening manner, in a way that encourages reflective thinking and understanding about oneself and others. It also helps students to embrace art as a powerful tool for creating change in their communities.