Finding Voice

Catalina Magnet High School, Tucson, AZ
January 2007 – Present
Finding Voice ( is a literacy and visual arts program dedicated to helping refugee and immigrant youth in English as a Second Language classes at Catalina Magnet High School develop their literacy skills by researching, photographing, writing, and speaking out about critical social issues in their lives and communities.

Julie Kasper, Catalina Magnet High School teacher, and I founded the program in the spring of 2007 in collaboration with the Tucson chapter of the International Rescue Committee. In 2007, we worked with 46 students from Afghanistan, Ghana, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mexico, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan to help them examine through words and photographs where they came from and where they live now. The students’ work resulted in a book (available at entitled “Home? Teen Refugees & Immigrants Explore Their Tucson.” In June 2008, a selection of their work was exhibited in the U.S. Senate and six students presented their images, stories and immigration policy recommendations at a Congressional briefing in the U.S. House of Representatives. During the 2007-08 year, students used photography and writing to explore health, war, and immigration and they shared their work through a community forum and 22 bus stop installations. In 2008, the Finding Voice program was one of three arts programs nationwide selected as a model case study for “Animating Democracy” by Americans for the Arts. During the 2008-09 school year, the Finding Voice students examined the “American Dream” and “Change” and shared their ideas through digital stories, theater, letters to politicians, posters, and community forums. We continue to work with new students each year and explore innovative avenues for sharing their voices.

Below are a sample digital story produced by Finding Voice student Laxmi Dahal and portraits taken by the students in response to their experiences with war and immigration. These portraits (and accompanying text) were installed as 4′ x 6′ posters in 22 bus shelters throughout Tucson over a one year period. You can view more student images, digital stories and writing at the Finding Voice website.