West Virginia National Youth Leadership Initiative Photovoice

The National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI), a “youth led, adult guided” leadership development program created and delivered by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) was implemented statewide in West Virginia. As a way to complement the NYLI content and to generate knowledge around local conditions and promote youth empowerment and voice, Photovoice was added to the standard NYLI curriculum. Youth were asked to take photos and write reflections around framing questions that asked what they were proud of in their community, what leadership meant to them, and what problems their community faced. Because this effort included nearly 130 youth who were located in West Virginia while the facilitators were located in Michigan, it was necessary to adapt the traditional in-person approach to Photovoice. This project included in-person and distance training on the Photovoice process and took the project online in a blog format. Youth participated by posting photos and narratives to a blog and facilitators responded to both individual posts and group discussion posts. Using Photovoice in this project helped youth to more fully understand the local conditions in their communities. They also developed knowledge products (websites, digital stories, photo exhibits) that reflected the insights they gained through Photovoice. These knowledge products were shared across the state with local communities, schools, substance abuse coalitions, and policy makers.