Minneapolis Park & ​​Rec hires Jerusa Nyakundi from Mshale for youth photography class

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Mshale photographer Jerusa Nyakundi on the cover of a promo on the Visual Voice course she will teach offered by the Minneapolis Park & ​​Recreation Board.
Jerusalem Nyakundi
Mshale photographer Jerusa Nyakundi on the cover of a promo on the Visual Voice course she will teach offered by the Minneapolis Park & ​​Recreation Board.

Jerusa Nyakundi, 23, is on a mission to inspire creativity and encourage young people to use media in healthy ways. The Kenyan-American photographer runs a photography course for local youth in collaboration with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.

The Visual Voice project was conceived by the Council’s activities coordinator, Sarah Williams. Nyakundi got to know Williams after the two met at an Ilhan Omar event where she was the assigned photographer Mshale. Together, the two were able to draft a plan for the project in order to secure funding from the board of directors and launched the Visual Voice project earlier this month.

Nyakundi began to take an interest in photography after receiving a camera from a brother. “I’m a bit of a creative person,” said Nyakundi, whose talents extend to music and painted art. She moved to the United States at the age of four a week after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Nyakundi describes experiencing culture shock in various aspects of her life, be it a cultural environment, different weather conditions and personal expression. “I knew I was in a different place but I didn’t know why I was here,” Nyakundi said.

Nyakundi now makes sense of his world through his lens. The photographer worked with several groups of undergraduate students before photographing for local artists, companies and an event hosted by Representative Ilhan Omar.

The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the average American teenager spends about seven hours a day consuming media. While some educators focus on limiting media consumption, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board wants to meet young people halfway through creating channels for healthy use of media for creativity and personal development.

Generation Z, the demographic cohort after millennials, have grown up in the digital age. The aim of the Visual Voice Project is to educate students on the healthy use of media and to encourage their creativity. The six-week project began with multiple exhibition trips to the Twin Cities for students to explore different artistic mediums to gauge their interests. Students will then participate in a series of workshops exploring photography. They will learn how to use a professional camera, different shooting styles, as well as editing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop. At the end of the program, there will be an exhibition for students to present their work. The Visual Voice project currently has fifteen students involved.

“After this project is completed, I want to move this program to different areas,” Nyakundi said. She wants to expand the project to reach a wider range of young people around Minnesota. Nyakundi wants to inspire the younger generation “to use creativity to solve the problems around them”.

Connect: Minneapolis Parks.

About Cynthia Simba, Mshale reporter

Cynthia graduated from the School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota. She interned with Mshale and Voice of America and previously worked at Minnesota Daily. She recently returned from Seoul, South Korea, where she was an English teacher.

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