Baldwin UFSD Unveils "Hello Neighbor" Project to Encourage an Inclusive Community
AP Photography Students Capture Brookside Second Graders Hopes and Dreams
Baldwin High School Advanced Placement Photography students recently took portraits of younger students as part of the district’s first “Hello Neighbor” art project.
Inspired by the Washington-based “Hello Neighbor” project by photojournalist and artist Julie Keefe, the district brought the same concept to Long Island but with its own students, featuring Brookside Elementary School second-graders.
The photos were blown up into 2-foot-by-3-foot posters, with each Brookside student’s hopes and dreams written across the top. The posters were then hung up along the tennis courts behind the high school, with the goal of expanding the initiative to the broader community in the future.
The project unveiling took place on the morning of May 4 at the high school, and was attended by Brookside second-graders and their parents and guardians, A.P. Photography students from the high school, teachers involved in the project, Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi and school board trustees.
“We are very big on integrated curriculum, and this project involved art, literacy as well as social emotional learning, and it brought students together and parents together,” Camhi said. “This is not a project that has been done before, and I enjoyed seeing the project come to fruition. It’s the beginning of an inspirational living museum.”
With the goal of inspiring local children and the surrounding community, the posters were created using waterproof material, in the hope that they remain intact for months to come — all for the purpose of promoting healing and optimism about the future amid the pandemic through positive affirmations and goals written on the photographs.
Keefe’s original project idea was conceived after she observed how gentrification was leaving many of her neighborhood’s children feeling estranged. As some of their friends moved away, strangers moved in. Her project invited the new neighbors to interview one another and learn about the people living in the area.
“This is what our 7-year-olds look forward to for their future, and when you listen to their hopes and dreams, it inspires what we do every day,” Camhi said. “All I can say is the thoughts of our students are the thoughts that we all have. We all hope for the end of Covid, to be happy and for our world to be a better place.”
Three second-grade classes took part in the Baldwin project, and students from the high school’s Photo 3 and 4 classes took the pictures.
“I love taking pictures, and I think taking pictures of kids is wonderful, and it’s inspiring to see the kids’ hopes and dreams memorialized, especially during a hard time like this,” said Baldwin High senior Elijah Schneider, 18, one of the honors photography students who helped with the project. “I think that being in front of a camera and talking about hopes and dreams is something we should all do. Having people look at you and see you for what your dreams are is important.”
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"Hello Neighbor" project considered a "living" work-of-art and will continue to grow each year with the help students from the district's other four elementary schools.
The project is another example of "students as producers," and Baldwin UFSD is the only district to use the original concept of "Hello Neighbor" within a school system.