Note: This blog is the second of two entries about Vision Quilt’s experiences in working with students at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California. In the first entry, Founder Cathy DeForest shared her thoughts on working with students in the classroom. In this blog, Board Member Jack Harbaugh shares what it was like at the student exhibition.
By Jack Harbaugh,
Vision Quilt Board Member
What an inspiring day. The eighth graders from Lighthouse Community Charter School were hosting an exhibition at E 14, a cool, new art gallery in Oakland. You could see and hear their excitement as they set up for the event that evening. The exhibition was the culmination of their three-month learning expedition on gun violence. Vision Quilt had been an important part of this journey, and many of the panels created by the students would be on display.
Families and friends of the students were invited to attend so there was a lot of pride and energy as they went about their tasks of getting the various booths constructed, the musical instruments set up and tuned, and the information tables organized.
The students were curating the exhibition themselves, and while the teachers were there to give direction and lend a hand, the eighth graders were responsible for getting everything ready for the event.
They also prepared themselves to be docents for that evening, rehearsing what they would say to each guest as they viewed each exhibit.
VQ Founder Cathy DeForest and I were given an opportunity to thank the students for making their panels and for being part of Vision Quilt’s national effort.
We gave them Vision Quilt t-shirts and invited them to be ambassadors of their school and Vision Quilt by continuing their commitment to preventing gun violence in their communities. The students immediately put on their new shirts with pride and wore them throughout the event.
The exhibition featured the new Vision Quilt video we created from interviews with some of the students and teachers. Earl, one of the students featured in the video, was instrumental in getting the laptop connected to the projector. After I thanked him and complimented him on his technical expertise he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Mr. Jack, would you be interested in taking me to lunch as a way to thank me for my help?” How could I say no?
The exhibition started at 6 pm sharp and hundreds of students, families and friends quickly filled the gallery. Almost immediately a large group of people moved over to the corner where the VQ video was being shown. They stood and watched, completely mesmerized, from start to finish. This scene repeated several times throughout the evening as the video played. The students and teachers did such an amazing job of articulating their experiences and concerns about gun violence—but also in offering hope for change.
Carlos, another student featured in the video, was there with his mother and three younger sisters. During his video interview, he told us he had a lot of responsibility for caring for his sisters as his mom was a single, working parent. I asked Carlos to introduce me to his mother Maria, and I told her what a fine young man he was and how much I enjoyed getting to know him. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me. And the look of pride on Carlos’ face was beautiful.
I was overwhelmed throughout the evening by the poise of the students, their commitment to their work, the wide range of creative exhibits on the difficult topic of gun violence, and most of all the pride they had in what they had accomplished.
Read the first Lighthouse blog now.
Watch the Lighthouse video now.
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