Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Roosevelt High School students earn PCC credits for graphic novel project

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What’s a good way to educate young people on how best to navigate interactions with law enforcement? “With a comic book,” might not be the answer that springs most readily to mind, but that’s exactly what a group of Roosevelt High School students – in collaboration with Portland Community College  – created this summer.

“Youth and the Law” is a graphic novel depicting different scenarios that young people might face when interacting with law enforcement officers. It’s an outgrowth of the Youth and the Law Project, a collaboration between area schools and community groups designed to educate youth about their rights and how to be safe when interacting with police.img_0284

“Youth and the Law” was created over the course of the summer at PCC’s Cascade Campus, where the students had the use of a classroom. And with support from the federal GEAR-UP program, they were able to earn credit for having taken a PCC Education Dept. class  – specifically, ED 298c, “Special Projects in Education.” The students presented their work to an appreciative crowd at Cascade during August.

“We hope this very positive experience in collaboration with PCC will help these students see college in their future, hopefully at PCC,” said Gabe Hunter-Bernstein, director of the Center for Careers in Education at Cascade and PCC’s liaison to the Roosevelt students.

In the course of creating the graphic novel, the students researched common interactions between police and young people, and framed their project around five such scenarios, ranging from interacting with a school resource officer to riding on public transit. Their research included studying legal cases and journalistic accounts, speaking with community groups associated with different communities of color, and even riding along with Portland police officers. They also drew on their own experiences in dealing with law enforcement.

The result is an engaging, accessible resource that will hopefully help young people to navigate encounters with law enforcement toward a positive outcome. The students said that working on the project helped them to better understand interactions between youth and police from a law enforcement perspective; one student said she now plans to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“The biggest thing I learned is that I have a voice,” said Jasmine Gonzalez, one of the graphic novel’s creators. “And now I know how to use it.”

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