fostering hope and weaving identity through documentary storytelling

Smothers Elementary School

The 2013-2014 Identity Project Residency at Smothers Elementary was the result of an ongoing partnership with The Literacy Lab in Washington DC. While in residence at Smothers, The Identity Project reached over 50 1st-5th graders. Alesandra Zsiba worked closely with literacy specialists to craft a residency model that inspired students to find daily affirmation through a unique pedagogical approach fusing documentary storytelling and project-based literacy learning.

Alesandra Zsiba recently conducted The Identity Project with our high-need elementary students in Washington, DC. For a population of students who have experienced a high degree of trauma and loss in their short lives, The Identity Project provided them with a way to see themselves positively and literally through a different lens. Alesandra expertly guided the students to build their confidence, and she wove in literacy themes as students explored their self worth and individuality through poetry and photography. In our final showcase of each student’s work, the auditorium erupted in smiles and cheers from students and parents alike as each student’s portrait appeared. The students walked out of The Identity Project experience with their heads held higher and their backs a little straighter than when they began thanks to the careful development of the curriculum and the thoughtful and skillful implementation by Alesandra Zsiba.
— Ashley Johnson, Co-Executive Director at The Literacy Lab