A blog post by our friends at Communities In Schools.
‘What We Are Made Of‘ is a storytelling campaign from Communities In Schools (CIS), the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering at-risk students to stay in school. CIS partnered with pop artist Jason Mecier to create a series of mosaic portraits that seek to explore the story within young people across America. All too often the stories we hear framing today’s youth are that of struggle and tragedy. But we know that students are more than the challenges they face, and more the statistics others use to define them. ‘What We Are Made Of‘ uses the medium of mosaic art to invite viewers to look past assumptions and to see young people as multi-faceted and complex—as more than first meets the eye.
Nasje, Icetria, My’Yelle, three of the featured students, are from Atlanta, Houston, and Chicago, respectively. These three young women are both extraordinary individuals and powerful representations of overcoming adversity in route to success. Get to know Nasje, Icetria, My’Yelle by visiting whatwearemadeof.us and exploring their interactive digital portraits.
All photos via: Communities In Schools
Nasje is from Chicago, Illinois. Bullied for her dark skin tone, Nasje struggled with her self-esteem and found herself getting into heated altercations with her peers. When her CIS site coordinator, Artesha Williams, introduced Nasje to the Heart Club, a group for young women of color, Nasje blossomed, channeling her frustration into art journaling and group conversations about interpersonal challenges and escalation tactics.
The group watched the documentary ‘Imagine A Future: My Black Is Beautiful,’ which helped Nasje find her confidence and feel at home in her skin. Now a group leader, Nasje has become a resource for younger students who’re struggling with self-love and bullying.
Icetria, a native Houstonian, projects an air of leadership. The oldest among her siblings and cousins, she’s also become like a big sister to the younger cadets in her school’s JROTC unit, for which she is the operations officer. Icetria dreams of running a beauty supply store and other businesses in her community where her neighbors will feel welcome and taken care of.
But when she and her family lost everything to Hurricane Harvey, Icetria realized she needed the very thing she so often gave others: support. It was during this difficult time that she met Communities In Schools site coordinator Alma Guiterrez, who not only helped Icetria access resources and catch up from missing two months of school, but helped her work through the social-emotional trauma of what she’d been through.
My’Yelle grew up in New Orleans but re-located to Atlanta after Hurricane Katrina. She credits her brother with helping her family get through that difficult transition, so it was especially difficult when she lost him in a tragic accident last summer. She fell into a depression, isolating herself from her family and friends and falling behind in her classes. Her Communities In Schools site coordinator, Priscilla Barnes, connected her to the opportunity to take a trip to New York City through Communities In Schools of Atlanta.
Meeting successful young professional Black women who’d also overcome losses and come from similar backgrounds as My’Yelle inspired her to try again in school and to work hard to achieve a future that would make her and her brother proud. My’Yelle was recently accepted into Xavier University in Louisiana and is awaiting a decision from Spelman College, one of which will be her home for the next four years as she studies to become a cardiologist.
Learn about the significance of the items you see in the portraits by visiting whatwearemadeof.us.
About Communities In Schools:
Communities In Schools (CIS) is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering at-risk students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future. Working directly inside more than 2,300 schools across the country, we connect kids to caring adults and community resources designed to help them succeed. We do whatever it takes to ensure that all kids—regardless of the challenges they may face—have what they need to realize their potential.