In the Fall of 2014, I was assigned the task of documenting Y.E. Smith, a Title I elementary school in Durham, North Carolina. Seventeen years old with my Nikon in hand, I made the fifteen-minute drive each week to the school, where I observed Ms. Anna Sanders’ kindergarten class, snapping photos as I saw fit. My work culminated in a documentary shown to the Y.E. Smith, Duke, and greater Durham communities. (link)
Having taught for over 30 years, even teaching the children of her former students, Ms. Sanders is a Y.E. Smith veteran. Within a school containing a broad range of races, ethnicities, and languages, Ms. Sanders' 22-person class is a microcosm of the diverse Y.E. Smith student population. Though young, every student brought to the classroom a distinct and vibrant personality, adding to the mixing pot that is Ms. Sanders' class. Their love for Ms. Sanders and their energetic and explorative nature created a learning environment that that is firm, yet loving. Serious, yet playful. Structured, yet spontaneous.
I created this body of work—more than a series of photos, but a story—to educate the larger Durham community on the challenges and successes of its lowest performing school while shedding light on the individuals that make up its unique and hard-working community.
Go Y.E. Smith, and go Tigers!