The weight young people carry these days is overwhelming. They are bombarded with contradicting media messages and societal pressures that encourage them to make life-devaluing choices. Many of them fall prey to these messages that promise hope and happiness, but end up leading them into a destructive lifestyle.
In March 2016, twelve student leaders gathered together and, over the course of three days, took a long, hard look at both their personal lives and their school culture. These students identified the common factors that prevent their school community from fully embracing every individual as inherently valuable. Mentored by Signal Hill and the creative team at Glass Canvas, these extraordinary young people created a campaign that exposes the lies perpetuated by the media and challenges their peers to value every person they meet.
Today we’re delighted to talk with Carrie Davidson, Executive Director of Signal Hill, about her experience working on The Value Project.
Can you tell us about The Value Project and what inspired it?
The purpose of The Value Project is to empower this generation with the important message of valuing every person and teaching them they are valuable and that they have a voice. It came out of a desire to invest in young people, because people have invested in me. These students are our future leaders. We need to empower them now and help develop them into greater leaders of tomorrow.
Why was it so important to have young people create the campaign themselves?
I knew that these young students would be the best people to talk to their peer groups because they know what they are facing. They know the issues and they know what their peers are going through because they, themselves, are living in the midst of a culture that devalues people regularly. These young people need to be released from a society that says you need to be older and more educated before you can make an impact. Whereas, I think, anyone can make an impact if they are passionate about something.
What was it like working with the students?
It was amazing. They were motivated, passionate, and so determined to overcome any obstacles that arose. They could have just quit, but they didn’t - they rose to every challenge. Their ideas and concepts were incredible and they knew what their school needed. Each campaign catered to meet the needs of that school. They would innately know if something wasn’t going to work in their school and they would adjust the campaign as needed.
So, each group of students brings back a specialized presentation to their school – why is it important that the presentations are unique to each school?
Each campaign catered to the specific culture of each school. For example, every group created a series of large posters that had two images with the caption “Who is more valuable?” However, the images changed for each school. For example, one school placed a high value on good grades and getting into professional programs, so there’s a social hierarchy with the professions at the top. So the team chose contrasting images of a businessman on one side and a tradesman on the other side, challenging their classmates not to equate value with social status or education.
Another school had several students with Down Syndrome, and at times those kids were treated differently. So that team chose a picture of someone who didn’t have Down Syndrome and someone who did. Again, the question was asked, do we value everyone for their own worth and dignity or do we judge based on physical appearance or other abilities or disabilities?
Tell us about a personal highlight you had during the filming of The Value Project.
The highlight for me was seeing these young people recognize that they themselves are valued and that they have a voice. It was beautiful to watch them grab a hold of this important message and go out and impact their school for the better. They were just on fire. They were more motivated after our time with them than during – something awakened in them and they are not turning back.
Are you planning on doing more with The Value Project?
Yes! We have plans to grow The Value Project. After seeing the impact in the schools and in these students we need to reach more schools and empower more young leaders to carry on this important message of the value of every person.