Grant Recipient Highlight:

The AjA Project

About The AjA Project

AjA’s Art + Social Justice program teaches underserved youth from a range of backgrounds to “turn the lens outward” and critically examine issues that affect their lives and communities through the arts. During the program, students learn basic, intermediate and advanced photography techniques as a means to explore critical social issues impacting their lives and communities. At the completion of the program, a student art exhibit is created in which students have the opportunity to showcase and present their images and speak about the issues their images represent. Students work with AjA staff to create the content for the exhibition and curate the exhibition. AjA facilitates partnerships between students and local schools, community organizations and policy makers to foster change on a systemic level. At their exhibition, students secure commitments from local stakeholders to take ownership of the issues they identified for themselves. The end goal of the Art + Social Justice program is to position young people as agents of change in their lives and communities.

About AjA’s Community/Education-based Partnership:

Over the past 5 years, The AjA Project has partnered with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) to provide arts programming in Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS). SDCOE’s JCCS division provides fully-accredited educational programs for school-age youth who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, probation. Services are provided to incarcerated youth, pregnant minors, foster youth, expelled teens and chronically truant youth, students in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children, and homeless youth. JCCS educators are committed to high expectations, social justice and equality for all students. They value diversity and strive to eradicate institutionalized racism and discrimination in all forms. Their priority is to raise achievement of all students while eliminating the achievement gap between students of color and white students. This is accomplished through the delivery of culturally & linguistically responsive standards-driven instruction, advocacy-oriented leadership and relevant professional development.

AjA’s Art + Social Justice Program is designed to promote an additional range of socio-emotional, behavioral and youth development outcomes such as:

  1. Participants will learn to critically examine community issues
  2. Participants will understand and develop a practice of self-reflection
  3. Participants will be empowered to create place-based changes and realize their voice is a powerful tool
  4. Participants will feel socially and emotionally supported
  5. Participants will feel a strong sense of belonging