• by Laurie Posner, MPA • IDRA Newsletter • March 2012 •Laurie Posner

On a Saturday the 11th of February 2012, students from Canton High School in Mississippi gathered with members of their families and the community, the mayor and educators at South Liberty Baptist Church to reflect on how to expand pathways to graduation and higher education. Part of IDRA’s Pathways project, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the youth day was carried out in partnership with Canton Public Schools, the church and the nonprofit, Critical Exposure. It was part of an initiative that fosters cross-race community action dialogues to open paths to all students, in keeping with the promises of landmark civil rights cases, such as Brown vs. Board of Education and Mendez vs. Westminster. Working with IDRA, Critical Exposure and a journalism teacher, the students used documentary photography to illustrate barriers and opportunities to going to college.

With their photographs, the students emphasized that opening paths to college means overcoming costs and barriers to transportation, juggling family responsibilities, and learning about what is possible, affordable and unknown. Supports that matter include: the encouragement of teachers and parents; information about college options, how to apply, requirements and how to pay for college; valuing of higher education by a teacher or family member; help in maintaining a steady focus on higher education; information about college from someone who has gone to college and succeeded and local role models in various careers; and encouragement from local faith leaders and congregations.

In addition to the photos below, see more of the students’ perspectives: Movie format or PowerPoint format

Participating Canton High School students with their teacher, Ms. Anderson, and Mayor Dr. William Truly. Dr. Truly: “There is no more important thing to be doing on a Saturday than hearing the perspectives of youth about education.”

By Ariel Coley, 11th Grade
“Tuition for college is very high and money is low! We need more jobs in Canton that could help us start saving money for school.”

Title: Even if I Had a Car, I Wouldn’t Be Able to Afford the Gas
By William Kittrell, Ninth Grade
“The price of gas is getting so high that just having enough money to pay for gas going to and coming from school would be hard.”

Title: Not Fitting In
By Tamerial Lewis, 11th Grade
“This is a picture of a boy standing to himself… I feel like when I leave to go to college I may not fit in with the other students.”



Mendez and Brown Community Dialogues Launch Kit and Seven Actions for Fulfilling the Promise of Mendez and Brown, online or in print from IDRA http://www.idra.org/mendezbrown/promise.html

Learn more about Critical Exposure’s work with youth and documentary photography http://criticalexposure.org/

Listen to the IDRA Classnotes podcast episode, “Latino and African American Communities Leading for School Reform”

Laurie Posner, M.P.A., is a senior education associate in IDRA Support Services. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail feedback@idra.org

[©2012, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2012 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]