A consortium of over 40 home-schooled students and parents attended and reported on Natalie Keyssar's presentation on January 13, 2017 about her Pulitzer Center supported project, "The Office of Hope." As part of Pulitzer Center's education outreach program, Keyssar visited nearly 150 students in Washington, D.C., and Maryland in January 2017, to talk about her project and her reporting process.
Keyssar's reporting focuses on the struggles and worsening conditions of daily life amid political deadlock in Venezuela since the 2013 death of President Hugo Chavez.
Members of Culture at Home, an academic and support group for African American homeschooling families in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, met with Keyssar at Pulitzer Center's office and later wrote opinion pieces about Keyssar's presentation talk as part of a workshop prepared by their facilitator, Pier Penic. Penic, who coordinated the visit and manages Culture at Home, facilitated the lesson immediately following the presentation. Several students were able to share their reflections with Keyssar at the conclusion of the workshop. "Your presentation opened up so many possibilities for me, as an aspiring writer, and a potential journalist one day," wrote Khadijah Smith in an email to Keyssar later that day. "Know that you really inspired me today, and I have more conviction now than ever that the experience of telling the story of the people, be it through pen or picture, is one of the most rewarding and moving ones there is."
Penic shared her lesson plan, "Photojournalism: Writing an Opinion Piece," on the Pulitzer Center Lesson Builder. Here are some excerpts from students' final opinion pieces:
Kwayera Clemons wrote: "I'm so glad I had the opportunity to have heard about her experiences and the impacts she makes through photojournalism. Her photos made me feel as if I could feel every little emotion these Venezuelans were experiencing. It is almost as if I were in the moment and I could feel their empathy."
Aliah Showkatian wrote: "There were photographs of young teenagers partying the day away surrounded by neon lights and roaring music. There were photographs of women too young to bear the burdens they had upon their shoulders, filled with worry about the fate of their husbands, brothers, and fathers, locked up in a cell somewhere. There were photographs of police furious enough to release tear gas and fire guns, while frightened men, women, and children either ran in fear, or stood their ground. There were photographs of faces hidden by masks that were meant to protect them, photographs of the old, having seen better days, and photographs of women screaming and fighting each other for a single loaf of bread that might allow their families to live a few days longer."
Kai Clemons wrote: "Keyssar illustrates a compelling presentation on her journey through Venezuela and succeeds so greatly in captivating the audience with her exquisite photographs. Her photographs paint a picture so enticing¨ it is impossible to look away and not be taken from them. Keyssar decided to use her camera as a weapon to initiate change for others. Her photographs force the audience to step outside of themselves in order to walk in others shoes. She makes it utterly clear that just because something isn't happening to us directly doesn't mean we ought to ignore it."
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To read the full text of the opinion pieces, click the attachment below.