Happy Hellos and Hard Goodbyes, 2018 Edition – Part One

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

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Tess, Madison and Katie celebrate graduation with SU-themed treats from Cupcake Royale June 12.

This is always one of my least favorite tasks — saying farewell to a student team at the height of its camaraderie and success. This year, it happened in a blur. There was just too much going on at the end of the 2017-18 school year. In the final days leading up to graduation, we:

  • Co-hosted a major eventIgnite Project Homeless with The Seattle Times, June 7
  • Finished up final edits on the documentary our student team produced for Affordable Housing Week, “Central Division
  • Completed the infographic for the 2018 Count Us In point-in-time count of homelessness, for All Home (the third year in a row our student designer has created this piece)

In the midst of all this, the goodbye to our incredible team of students felt inadequate and hasty.

So it’s time for a more fitting farewell as we post our annual tribute to our graduating students and the incoming team — Happy Hellos and Hard Goodbyes. Part One is the hard goodbye, a look back at some of the incredible work by our student team Katie Bradley, Tess Riski and Madison Vucci.

A staggered but high-powered start

Let’s start with some words from the first student to join the team, Tess.

“When I first started at the Seattle U Project on Family Homelessness, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d gotten myself into. I knew I was hired onto the project to help combat family homelessness in the region, but I wasn’t sure how to go about creating those solutions. And I don’t think I was alone in that feeling. In fact, I believe that many in our region – Seattle, King County, the broader Pacific Northwest – feel a sense of powerlessness at the thought of ending homelessness. How can one person, after all, solve an entire crisis? I see my fellow residents in Seattle internalize this belief. For some, it is expressed through anger at the homeless, guilt within themselves or dismay for the government. (Seattle City Council is a notoriously easy scapegoat, though I think many still struggle to point out what, specifically, our elected officials – who we voted into office – are doing wrong.) It is, after all, a lot easier to blame others for the homelessness crisis than to reflect internally and ask oneself:

1) How have I or the systems from which I benefit exacerbated this crisis?

2) What can I do personally to make a positive impact?

This internal reflection is what I spent the last twelve months doing. And during these twelve months, I learned that, while there are many naysayers out there, there are also dozens of wonderful organizationsparticularly our partners – who strive to answer those two aforementioned questions on a daily basis.” — Tess

We got off to an unusual start this year because our team was somewhat patchwork till January 2018, due to summer internships and a study abroad.  Till then, individually or in pairs, they produced some great work in summer and fall, including:

  • The Voter’s Guide on Housing and Homelessness website, a partnership with Solid Ground, Housing Development Consortium and Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness. Tess worked long hours building the site, where we posted responses from 12 of the 21 (!) Seattle mayoral candidates. The site drew more than 3,000 views before the primary.
  • A Get Out the Vote video that Tess and Madison put together right before the primary, garnering more than 1,200 views in one day.

 

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The online ad that Madison designed, which ran in Crosscut; it features her illustration of the two general-election candidates.
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Katie and Madison learned how to write poetry in the Pongo method, and how to teach others, at the October training.  

And then there was The Florida Project — our favorite film about family homelessness! Madison and Katie attended the screening in October, and Katie wrote an insightful review, in which she addressed issues like overcoming the judgments that start to creep in while watching this challenging young mother try to keep her family afloat.

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Katie and Madison at the Pacific Place screening of “The Florida Project” in October 2017.

The team comes together just in time for HHAD

It wasn’t till January that Katie, Madison and Tess came together to work as a team — but then they were unstoppable. Here they are in January as they started planning their incredibly successful events in winter and spring 2018.

Team 2017-18 in January 2018
L-R: Madison, Tess and Katie, taking a break from their “craft project” creating images for their HHAD events.

From the day they first started finger-painting images and slogans about homelessness for postcards, stickers and posters, it was clear this would be an unprecedented campus event for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD). It culminated in a visit to the office of Sen. Christine Rolfes, chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, where they presented more than 500 postcards from the SU community urging action on homelessness in Washington. They even got mentioned in Sen. Rolfes’ constituent newsletter.

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The team earns recognition in Sen. Rolfes’ newsletter.

 

To document their experience, they created unique reflections; Katie created a flipbook, Madison wrote about the design project and Tess reflected on the “imposter syndrome” she overcame as a first-time advocate. Check out their projects here.

No senioritis: Taking on their biggest project

Our usual capstone event each school year is a campus and community event for Affordable Housing Week. This team decided that their event would be a screening of a documentary about gentrification in the Central District, which they set out to produce themselves. It was a massive task, but they handled it splendidly, interviewing five leaders (including our project alum Ashwin!) and filming throughout the changing Central District.

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In the editing room at SU, home away from home for several weeks: L-R, Madison, Katie and Tess.

On May 15, with moments to spare, they finished the film, “Central Division: A documentary exploring gentrification in the Central District,” and screened it for about 50 students, staff and community members. The event included a post-screening conversation with community leaders, which they facilitated. Here’s their recap and reflection on what they learned.

 

 

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L-R: Madison, Katie and Tess facilitated a discussion with guests Miriam Roskin, Patience Malaba and Sean Abdul.

While most students would then focus on graduating, they decided they wanted to go back in the editing room and polish up the film. It’s now available to watch on YouTube.

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Once a student on our team, now a local expert and important partner: Ashwin Warrior talks about gentrification in the documentary.

 

Overcoming obstacles

All this great work was set against a highly stressful spring marred by tragedy.

Tess, in her role as investigative editor for campus newspaper The Spectator, broke the story of the theft of stacks of our student newspaper because a faculty member deemed the cover inappropriate. It led to some painful campus-wide conversations about inclusivity. (But it also earned The Spectator and its adviser, Prof. Sonora Jha, an award from the regional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for their courage.)

We also lost one of our co-workers, Adrian Mayorga-Altamirano, our department’s student assistant who died unexpectedly in April. Taking time to grieve was important for our team, and we will always feel the loss of Adrian, a business student who we remember for his brilliance and helpfulness.

What’s next for the team

Some parting thoughts from Madison.

“From brainstorms, to crunch-time, to celebrations, to overtime, and all in between, we were the best team of three I could have dreamed to be. Together, we pushed one another to new levels and always inspired the further development of our ideas. We had one another’s backs and always gave equal commitment and partnership, even though we were all full-time students with at least one other job commitment each. I feel honored to have worked with these ladies and wouldn’t change anything about our time together.” — Madison

Clearly, saying goodbye was also bittersweet for these amazing young women, who truly enjoyed and were inspired by each other.

With graduation behind them, our trio joins the pantheon of distinguished project alumni and sets forth into exciting new ventures:

  • Katie Bradley, Strategic Communications and Public Affairs graduate, will start a job at Amazon in marketing later this summer.
  • Tess Riski, Journalism graduate, starts grad school at Columbia School of Journalism this fall.
  • Madison Vucci, Digital Design graduate, will be freelancing as a designer and flinging awesome pies as she plans her next chapter.

Congratulations to all three of them and many, many thanks for their stellar work this year for our advocacy partners, our university and our project!

Team 2017-18 in January 2018-2

 

A Look Ahead from Katie

“The experiences you will gain by working on the Project are seriously impressive. Take note of all that you do and have pride over what you accomplish.  I was able to develop so many new skills – like videography and making a flipbook — by working on the Project. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and push beyond your boundaries. You will gain more skills with the challenge and will have way more fun as you learn. I am so excited to see the work that you do and what is ahead for the Project!” — Katie 

Coming this fall: Part Two — Happy Hellos, as we welcome the new students to our team.

Katie’s Declassified HHAD Survival Guide

 

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From the cover of my Declassified HHAD Survival Guide flipbook. L-R: Tess, Me, Madison.

By Katie Bradley, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

 

For my Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD) reflection, I decided to create a flipbook describing my experience and what I learned throughout the day. An online flipbook is a new version of the traditional flipbook — a series of pictures that appear to be animated when you flip through them quickly. I felt like HHAD was a lively growth experience for me, and wanted my reflection to be equally dynamic, both visually and physically.

I also wanted to provide insight into what HHAD was like for me and share what future HHAD attendees can expect throughout the day.

The “Declassified HHAD Survival Guide” flipbook showcases my experience, while providing recommendations for the process of preparing for, attending, and reflecting on Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day.

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What I Learned About Family & Youth Homelessness from #SeaHomeless

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By Tess Riski, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

Editor’s Note: Seattle University Journalism and Teaching for Humanities rising senior Tess Riski recently joined our project team. This is her first post for our project. Read more about her here.

 

All day this past Wednesday, June 28, a host of Seattle media outlets participated in #SeaHomeless and concentrated their reporting on a group of people often kept in the shadows of mainstream news coverage: those experiencing homelessness.

I just started my position as Project Assistant at the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness, and this last week has been an intense learning process for me. Continue reading

Happy Hellos and Hard Goodbyes, 2017 Edition — Part One

 

 

Team 2016-17
Our 2016-17 SU student team, L-R: Khadija, Mandy and Shan, happy to be days away from graduating.

 

By Catherine Hinrichsen, Project Director, Project on Family Homelessness

 

The annual tradition of saying goodbye to our graduating student team never gets easier. But here we are again, celebrating the reason why our project remains strong: We choose a team of outstanding student assistants each year, and we get to watch them change the world while they’re still in school. Then it comes time to let go. Continue reading

“Designing for Social Change” — Mandy’s Reflection

By Mandy Rusch, Digital Design Project Assistant 2016-17

 

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Me hand-folding the pamphlets I designed for Renters’ Rights 101 in May.

 

What I’m proudest of

I am proudest of the All Home Infographic reporting on this year’s Count Us In data. When I was first brought on as the design assistant here, my supervisor, Catherine, showed me Amy Phung’s One Night Count infographic from 2016 as an example of the type of projects I would be working on. I remember how excited I was about the scope and impact of her work, especially when I heard that it had been used to advocate for policy change.

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“My Dream” — Khadija’s Reflection

By Khadija Diallo, Project Assistant, 2016-17

 

 

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Me at the beginning of the year.

 

For the past year, I have had the pleasure of working on the Project on Family Homelessness as a project assistant. It was my dream to be part of the project from the minute I heard about it. I wanted to start using my Strategic Communications skills for good and I knew I could have an impact on my community if I worked on this important Project.

I’m happy to say that I was right. Continue reading

“Helping People Comes First” – Shan’s Reflection

By Shan Yonamine, Project Assistant 2016-2017

 

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One of my favorite memories as a project assistant was attending Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day in February.

As my time as a project assistant comes to a close, I can’t help but look back at when I started on the project last summer. I recall looking through our blog and seeing all the posts, events and infographics created by previous project assistants and I was filled with wonder and excitement. I was excited to work on a project that produced such amazing work, but I wondered if I would be able to do the same. One year later, I am happy to say that I have. Continue reading

“Seeing Is Active” — A Collection of Memorable Quotes from “Streetwise Revisited”

By Shan Yonamine, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

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Introduction – This project and my purpose

It has been over two weeks since the “Streetwise Revisited” exhibit at The Seattle Public Library  has closed, and I am still finding myself thinking about the project and reflecting on my experiences. I find myself torn between wishing that it wasn’t over, and feeling so grateful that it happened that I decided to reflect on it even further.

“Streetwise Revisited” was The Seattle Public Library’s public education program focused on “Streetwise,” the 1984 documentary film, and the 30-year collection of photos by the renowned documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark. It consisted of a range of events from history talks to film screenings, and involved many important advocacy organizations that are also working to end homelessness.

Because the Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness  was a community partner, I took the opportunity to attend as many of the “Streetwise Revisited” events as possible and I’m so glad that I did. The project provided me with an overwhelming amount of insight on “Streetwise” and how it can be used as a tool for advocacy. I heard the perspectives of many individuals who either had a role in the original film or who are working today to advocate for people who are experiencing homelessness. More importantly, I realized that, as advocates, we are all powerfully connected by our cause.

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“Create Change” — A Day to Change How We Think about Art, Advocacy and Homelessness

By Mandy Rusch, Digital Design Project Assistant, Project on Family Homelessness

Art is my coping mechanism. During the artistic process, there is power in the hands of the maker. Regardless of whether anyone sees the result or even if it is “good,” this power is healing, inspiring and uplifting.

At The Seattle Public Library’s “Create Change: Youth & Family Homelessness and the Arts” event on Oct. 29, 2016, I had the opportunity to come together with a community of people to find out how art can be used to take action towards ending youth and family homelessness. You can see an in-depth description of the full day of performances, speakers and arts events here in this story by my colleague Shan.

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There Is No Perfect Answer — What I Learned from “Tiny – The Life of Erin Blackwell”

 

By Shan Yonamine, Project Assistant, Seattle University Project on Family Homelessness

Erin crying and smoking, Seattle, 2004
Erin crying and smoking, Seattle, 2004. Photo by Mary Ellen Mark.

 

The first thing that I wanted after seeing “Streetwise” was answers. After watching the acclaimed 1984 documentary  and getting such a candid look into the lives of the nine children, I felt as though I developed an intimate connection to each of them. I knew that “Streetwise” was only one chapter in each of their stories, and I desperately wanted to know more.

In fact, I felt entitled to know more. After all, they had opened up their lives for all to see in the most raw, uncensored way. Wouldn’t they be used to sharing their lives with the world by now?

This is why I was so excited to attend the screening of “Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell” – the new film about one of the children in “Streetwise” — at The Seattle Public Library on Oct. 14. Both “Tiny” herself — Erin Blackwell — and director Martin Bell would be the special guests.

As I took my seat in the audience, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would find out from Erin and Martin about the “stars” of “Streetwise.” Where are they now? Are they still homeless? Are they still struggling with addiction? Or, had things gotten better for them? Maybe they got the help they needed. Maybe the film was a turning point for them. Maybe some of them are here today. All of these thoughts filled my mind as the lights dimmed and the movie began. I was ready for answers.

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