Program format: School and community-based writing workshops, culminating in published books
Art form(s): Writing, photojournalism
Location: New Orleans
Community served: New Orleans’ 7th ward – primarily high school students.
Mission: Our stories told by us.
The Neighborhood Story Project (NSP) is a unique documentary book-making project that takes the idea of personal/community storytelling to a whole new level. They began about seven years ago when, while running a writing workshop in one of the most underprivileged high schools in New Orleans, founders Abram Shalom Himelstein and Rachel Breunlin realized that the students in their class had really important stories to tell.
Based in New Orleans’ 7th ward, NSP primarily works with high school students, but also offers workshops and collaborates on projects with other members of the community. They begin by focusing on writing practice, encouraging their students to write and journal about their own lives. After they have written a fairly substantial amount of material, they begin to gain perspective on who and what the major players and events are in their lives. At this point they also begin to work on some photojournalism and interview projects in addition to the writing, focusing in on the discoveries they’ve made about who and what is important to them.
The result? A beautiful, professionally published book. The first set of books that the NSP published came out right before Hurricane Katrina, and at the time they were the second best seller in the city – behind only Harry Potter! The students also have the option of purchasing an unlimited quantity of their own books at $5 a piece, which they can then go out and sell themselves at the full retail value of $15 – a big profit for the student.
To view (and purchase!) any of their books, visit the Neighborhood Story Project website.