A group of fifteen ESOL students, guided by teaching artist Joanne Miller and the Wheaton Wellness Center staff, explored the redevelopment of their downtown Wheaton community through photos and oral histories, and presented them to a crowd of over 70 people on June 19th at Westfield Wheaton Mall.  Their photovoice exhibit will be displayed at the lower level Macy’s court, from June 19th to June 26th, 2019.

The students say their perspectives on community were drastically changed by their photovoice experience. For the last six months, they interviewed small business owners, construction company leadership, and County Council staffers and documented their research and observations with photography.

At the opening event, Student Leidy M. spoke about feeling much more connected to her community, saying “We learned the importance of observing our surroundings and taking in the beauty that we ignored before.” Student Eric M. appreciated the many points of view he heard during their community interviews, saying, “Of the people we interviewed I learned you should never give up. Obstacles will always be there. There will always be people who want to see you fail. They taught me that none of that should matter to me.  I have to plan my goal, execute it.”

County Council President Nancy Navarro and Delegate Alfred Carr Jr, on behalf of the County Council and District 18 lawmakers, congratulated the students on their work, and told them how happy they were to see young people getting involved in the community.

The exhibit and reception were sponsored by Westfield Wheaton Mall, the Montgomery County Executive’s Ball Fund, Montgomery History, and refreshments were provided by Nando’s Peri Peri.

The Identity-run Wheaton High School Wellness Center offers a range of programs and services that improve students cognitive, physical, social and emotional development.

Examples of photos taken by Wheaton High School students include this artwork by Leidy M., Jose C., Carlos M., Herson H., and Erick M.: