HSC was thrilled to release a new book last week with our partners at Critical Exposure and 21st Century School Fund. The publication is based on Through Your Lens, a contest and photo exhibit we held to encourage students and teachers from around the country to photograph their schools and share the results.
A high-quality learning and working environment for students and teachers can make a real difference in the classroom. Every day, students suffer from asthma worsened by poor air quality in schools, navigate unsafe and damaged buildings, and deal with the stigma of attending a poorly maintained school. And the reverse is certainly true as well -- a well-maintained school building that exemplifies the importance of education can inspire students and teachers to new heights.
At the Through Your Lens exhibit opening on Capitol Hill in October 2009, Baltimore high school student Briauna Wills spoke about her own learning environment. To celebrate the release of the Through Your Lens book, we're honored to share part of Briauna's poignant speech:
I chose to join the “Through Your Lens Exhibit” because I love my school and teachers but I hate the building we are in. I feel imprisoned at my school with the cages on the windows and doors, bad lighting and broken windows. I am so embarrassed by my school building that I tell people I go to Digital Harbor, a Baltimore City school with beautiful new facilities. My school has so many horrible deficiencies like bad ventilation, uneven heating, and faulty electrical wiring. I have asthma and so do a lot of my friends. Because of the lack of air conditioning and poor ventilation we often miss a lot of class time, especially when the seasons change.
Most of the time we don’t have enough computers for a full class of students and we have to share because of the electrical problems. ...My freshman year my whole class had to sit with their feet on their chairs in a certain class because the sockets on the floor were old and had wires shooting out from them and my teacher didn’t want us to get shocked.
...I had a substitute teacher recently say, “I’ve seen bad schools but a school that when you shut the classroom door you get locked in because the knobs are broken and the doors are this old is crazy!” Everyone laughed but I wished I wasn’t there.
I wish we had lockers big enough to fit my binders in and there weren’t wires hanging from the ceilings and that I didn’t have to stress about being in danger of cutting myself on the broken glass on the doors and windows. I want to go to a better-looking and working school but I love being here no matter how many problems we have, although many students have transferred because of it. I would like to see my school up and running like some of the new ones that have been remodeled.
If my school was in better shape it would make me enjoy coming more. Life would be easier at school if I had facilities like Digital Harbor. I would have less worries and wouldn’t feel so down about my school. I understand that other schools have problems just as much as mine and I’m sure there are people at other schools with the same feelings so I want to be their voice and help them get the schools we all deserve.
Briauna Wills is a sophomore at the Baltimore Freedom Academy, a public school focused on social justice and activism. After she graduates from high school, she hopes to attend Towson University to study law.
We'll be posting more photos from Through Your Lens in the weeks ahead as Congress prepares to vote on legislation to fund the repair, renovation and construction of safe, healthy school buildings.You can take action at www.throughyourlens.org to let your Senators and Representative know that our nation's school facilites matter.Learn more and see the Through Your Lens book here.