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Elsie Allen students aim for change through a camera lens

  • Erick Tinajero takes a photo of dumped furniture on Moorland Ave., Tuesday, August 26, 2014. Tinajero, a junior at Elsie Allen High School, is participating in the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County program where students go out with their smartphones to take photos of things they like and dislike in their community. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Sometimes a picture can tell a story better than words.

That’s the message Vince Harper with the Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County delivered to 15 students from Elsie Allen High School last week before they set out to document the needs of their southwest Santa Rosa neighborhoods using digital cameras and smartphones.

“Instead of just saying it, you have a picture to prove it,” Harper said. “Photography is very powerful.”

Community Action Partnership


The project aims to empower the kids and bring positive changes to an area that historically has struggled with poverty and gang-related crime. It focuses on the Moorland neighborhood where several of the students who are participating live, Harper said.

He said it’s inspired by PhotoVoice projects around the globe that have given people in disadvantaged communities a voice and power to push for social change through photography. For example, they’ve been used to tell the stories of Syrian refugees and human-trafficking victims from Africa.

Harper plans to enlarge the images and help the Elsie Allen students write captions later this week. He said the students are planning to present their pictures to local government officials and agencies that can bring change in southwest Santa Rosa.

“This is about you presenting what you see in your world,” Harper said while meeting with the students on campus Aug. 25. He gave them tips on conveying their feelings through a camera lens.

Moorland resident Elizabeth Cruz knew exactly what she wanted to express in her pictures: Roads stink in her neighborhood. Potholes plague the streets and sidewalks are lacking, argued the 17-year-old senior, who has spent most of her life in that neighborhood.

To get to a nearby convenience store, Cruz said she’d need to walk on busy roads just west of Highway 101.

“Otherwise, you have to walk in a ditch,” she said. “But you don’t know what’s in there.”

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