The True Heroes Project
One of the things that I love about graphic design is its ability to do an incredible amount of good. I have always been passionate about using design in positive ways. The Dear She project is particularly close to my heart for that reason. It allowed me to use graphic design to bring light to the issues of body image and self confidence and build a safe place for woman to come together, share stories, express themselves, and help each other heal. Dear She was built around my personal experience with the issue it addressed, and I think that closeness is what made the project such a success.
Another issue that I have had a strong connection to for most of my life is the struggles of students in underprivileged schools. My mom has been teaching Kindergarten in an inner city school for my entire life. I loved going to school with her and playing with the kids when I was around their age. And know that I’m all grown up, I still love to go in and meet the kids she talks about all the time in person. My mom tells such great stories about them and their big personalities. But she also tells me stories of their difficult home lives and the schools lack of funding. I was fortunate enough to attend amazing public schools and go to a fantastic SUNY school for college. But I have always been raised to appreciate those things, because not all kids are that lucky. So when I was presented with an opportunity to work on a project for an amazing class of 5th graders in a Rochester city school, I was thrilled. Catalyst, the company I work for, partnered up with an incredible teacher from the Nathanial Rochester School names Ms. Cope and her class to work on a project called True Heroes. Several members of Catalyst’s team members volunteered their time helping all the students write a story about a historical hero that they admire. After a few weeks of classroom visits, we had 29 beautifully written stories and 29 wonderful kids.
We really wanted to make this project something special for them. So that’s where I came in. I took all their stories and created a book out of them. True Heroes: Making a Difference became so much more then any of us were expecting. Each student’s photo and story is featured in the book, and some of their artwork graces the cover. But we couldn’t stop there. We wanted each student to have a real copy. Because as any designer knows, holding the real thing in your hands is the most rewarding feeling in the world.
And thanks to an amazing local printing company called Mercury Press, and Catalyst covering the cost of the books, we were able to do just that. The Catalyst team was able to go on on a tour of the printing facility with all the students and watch as the book was made. The kids were so enthralled with the entire process, and so was I! It was so cool to get to see something I designed run through these giant professional printing presses. A couple weeks later, Ms. Cope even threw a publishing party for the students. The student’s parents, the Catalyst team, and even the local news all watched as the students were given their books for the first time.
It was so amazing to use my passion for design to bring so much happiness to a teacher and her students that really deserve is. Getting to read all of kid’s stories and see their faces while creating the book was such an inspiration and just furthered my belief in designing for good and the importance of passion projects. It’s so important to realize that no mater what your skill set or resources are, you can always find a way to use them for good.