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Giving Volume to the Voices of our Youth

Catherine Squires and her students are partnering with youth to produce oral histories and community research
December 11, 2015

Portrait: Catherine Squires

Portrait: Catherine Squires
Catherine Squires

The Midway neighborhood in St. Paul received its name for being situated halfway between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The area has undergone major changes, including the building of the Green Line to the possible addition of a new soccer stadium. Sitting in the middle of all of these developments is Gordon Parks High School (GPSH), named for the famous one-time resident of St. Paul who became a world-renowned photographer, author, and filmmaker.

Inspired by Parks' legacy, teachers at the school work with Catherine Squires, along with her undergraduate and graduate students. Combining the skills, research, and theories taught in communication studies courses with the energy and local knowledge of students and community members, Squires’ students and GPHS students are able to produce oral histories for the Minnesota Historical Society. Additionally, they support local youth in researching alternative ideas for sustainable, equitable development along the Green Line.

This project, ongoing since 2008, has been awarded funds from the IMAGINE program and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. The goal of the project is to provide ways for youth in Midway to contribute to pivotal conversations regarding neighborhood development and other proposed changes for the neighborhood. “Encouraging people's sense of citizenship, civic responsibility, and awareness of the role of history are embedded in our projects at GPHS,” Squires says.

These projects provide ways for youth to explore how they can make their voices heard by getting involved with media production, rather than having the media set the agenda for them. Squires and her team help to deepen the culture of engagement between the community and our university by partnering with GPHS youth in digital storytelling and community research.

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.