The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Apoyos y Obstáculos: Using Photovoice to Promote Engagement and Activism Among At-Risk Latino Youth

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:00 AM
Marriott Riverwalk, Alamo Ballroom Salon E, 2nd Floor Elevator Level BR (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Brenda Quintero-Gonzalez, MSW, Mental Health Specialist, Kinship Center, Salinas, CA
Lisa M. Stewart, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Monterey, Seaside, CA
Purpose: Youth in high-risk communities frequently experience multiple-ongoing traumas (Carrion & Hull, 2009). Latino youth are twice as likely than their white counterparts to experience multiple traumatic events at a young age, and live in impoverished neighborhoods with limited access to resources. Photovoice is an arts based approach that enables people to document and reflect on their communities strengths and concerns by promoting dialogue through participant photographs and narratives (Wang, 2006). The purpose of this study was to engage at-risk youth from the Central Coast region of California to identify assets and concerns relating to their school and community. The results of the study were used to educate, empower and inform the community through art. 

 Method:  Photovoice aims to provide people who are marginalized with the tools to record and reflect on their communities strengths and concerns through: critical dialogue and knowledge about important community issues through large and small group discussions of photographs and; reaching out to influential community members who can be mobilized for change (Capous-Desyllas, 2010). In this study six Latino students between 12 to 14 years of age, were provided with cameras and instructed to take photographs of assets and concerns within their school and community.  Youth were then asked to participate in several group dialogue sessions where they shared their photos with each other, created individual scrapbooks, and planned for a public photo gallery to display their pictures and present their narratives. The objective of the gallery was to display their photos and stories as a way to challenge negative stereotypes about their school and community, to inform community advocates and the public of their needs.

 Results: Several themes emerged to illustrate how the youth perceived assets and concerns within their school and community. Photographs were linked to youth’s perceptions about safety within their school and community, gangs fostering violence, parents as supportive figures in their lives, teachers as role models and mentors, school and community resources, and feelings of pride for their school.  The role of culture and how this can support at-risk youth is discussed, as well as the shared experience of trauma and stigma. The findings support the transformative power of art to engage, inspire and mobilize participants and the communities in which they reside.

 Conclusions and Implications:  Findings from the study highlight the benefit of using photovoice and other arts based approaches for social work practice, policy and research.  Photovoice can provide diverse ways of knowing and seeing the world. For at-risk youth, whose voices are often marginalized, photovoice provides an opportunity to express their views, increase their skills, and empower them to make positive choices. Photovoice can also be used to promote community-level changes for at-risk youth through participation in recycling, lighting and trash collecting efforts to youth-led violence prevention to improved parent-child relationships.