VOICES began when Bob Rodriguez, a community leader in Tucson’s westside barrios was tired of hearing the youth in his neighborhood tell just gang stories. He wanted them to tell positive stories and be proud of neighborhood history. He created a 1997 neighborhood stories project with Regina Kelly and Stephen Farley as the guest artists who mentored ten teenagers to document the westside’s stories, resulting in a magazine, Looking into the Westside, and additional westside barrios projects. The success of these projects prompted a group of parents, neighborhood activists, youth, and artists to create a non-profit, Voices: Community Stories Past and Present, Inc., in 1999.

In our first two years, VOICES focused on mentoring projects that blended oral history, creative writing, and photo documentation and resulted in two books including the best-selling Snapped on the Street that focused on the story of mid-20th-century downtown as told through community’s members personal photos and memories, and the bilingual stories of public housing residents in Don’t Look at Me Different/No Me Veas Diferente.

In 2000-2010, VOICES created The 110º After School Magazine Project that blended creative writing, photography and journalism and responded to youth participants’ desire to tell stories about their present lives. 110º magazine published annually until May 2010. Through 2001-2002, VOICES began its first arts-in-education project, The World War II Inter-generational book project, They Opened Their Hearts: Tucson Elders Tell World War II Stories to Tucson Youth — the most ambitious weaving of creative writing, photography, and in-depth oral history VOICES had done at that time. In May 2010, VOICES published its last issue of 110º After School Magazine Project, ending a decade of challenging and heartfelt youth journalism.

Mural Making 1In July 2010, VOICES and longtime community partner, City High School, were awarded a prestigious grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant program. The five-year $500,000 grant afforded VOICES the opportunity to expand the program’s offerings and become the primary Extended Day Learning provider for the dynamic student body of City High School. VOICES in the CITY! was created and now offers a comprehensive full-day experience for City High School students throughout the school year.

Extended Day program highlights include:
– VOICES workshops for all students – click here to view view the current workshop selections, including culinary arts, darkroom photography, music, video game design, gardening and farming, and more
– Morning & Afternoon Office Hours with City High School teachers
– Afternoon snacks free to all participants in after-school programs
– Weekly Family Nights for parents, students, and other family members
– Summer Bridge Program for all incoming 9th grade students

The Extended Day programming builds on the rich history of collaboration between City High School and VOICES (working together since 2003!) and our shared mission to engage Tucson’s youth in their communities.

For more information, contact VOICES Coordinator Tom Moore.