fostering hope and weaving identity through documentary storytelling

Roger Williams Middle School

The Identity Project was first conceived and implemented during the school year 2011-2012 at Roger Williams Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island. It was designed by artist and educator Alesandra Zsiba, during her year of service with AmeriCorps through Providence CityArts For Youth. Roger Williams Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island, is a Title 1 turnaround school, in which over 90% of the students receive free or reduced price lunch, a federal poverty indicator. Over 80% of Rogers students speak a language other than English at home, and more than half receive English as a Second Language, Bilingual English/Spanish, or Special Education services. Alesandra led four sections of The Identity Project throughout the year with 6th-8th graders, reaching over 50 students.

Many of my students are not just feeling the tension between childhood and maturity, but often also between foreign and American cultures, native and acquired languages, and the lure of the street against their morality. The Identity Project used movement/ physicality, poetry, photography, and performance as a lens through which these students could express and discover their sense of who they are. It was a profoundly meaningful experience to the students who participated in it, many of whom have remained in touch. Alesandra helped my students find a sense of pride in their accomplishments as people and as artists. They were hesitant at first, but she guided them through many different forms of expression until they became enthusiastic participants. They trusted her, and believed when she told them they could make great things. They performed city wide, and published a book, and they know that they are artists.
— Kaydi McQuade, Director of Performing Arts, RWMS