Eastern Washington University students, faculty and staff played a key support role in the recent unveiling of a landmark report on the state of women and children in Spokane County.
The comprehensive report, “Changing Our Forecast: The State of Women and Children in Spokane County,” was released by the Women Helping Women Fund, an organization that contributes funding to Spokane area non-profit groups while working to raise public awareness about the plight of local women and children living in poverty.
The report focused on critical topics such as the lack of affordable and adequate child care, abuse, suicide, bullying, human trafficking and opioid addiction.
To help publicize the report’s findings, students from EWU’s Visual Communication Design 3 class created posters highlighting key issues.
“I learned there is a lot of poverty in Spokane,” says Renae Lorentz, who like many of her classmates, valued the educational experience the project presented––like learning how hard it is to find child care for children under five. “I didn’t realize how much until we did the project and learned about single moms in Spokane. I just didn’t realize how bad it was.”
Senior Maylea Moua, whose poster shines a spotlight on bullying, agrees. “It hits close to home, and it is so much more meaningful because you know that it’s in your local area,” she says. “I definitely learned a lot more about our local community and specifically how it affects the women in Spokane too.”
For Erin Williams the project had a personal dimension. Williams, who was born with opioid exposure, worked on a poster highlighting fallout from the opioid crisis. “So, it struck home for me,” says Williams. “It’s like 14 out of every hundred babies born in Spokane are born addicted to some type of opioid.”
Like her classmates, Williams believes the poster project was more than just another assignment. “This was a class project that also affected the community in a way that was more than just superficial. Because there’s a lot of projects that we do, they’re like ‘make this pretend website’ or ‘make this pretend thing,’ but this, actually applying this, was like a real-world experience.”
This is exactly what instructor Sonja Derr intended. “We do a lot of, I wouldn’t call it subversive teaching, but teaching about serious, systemic issues that are affecting our community directly through these kinds of projects, where they end up reading the report that Women Helping Women Fund put out and learning about that, and then directly trying to communicate with people or educate people affected by it.”
In addition to the student involvement, the steering committee for the report included Jonathan Anderson, dean of EWU’s College of Social Sciences and Brian Davenport, director of the university’s Office of Community Engagement.
The report’s release won’t end EWU’s involvement. Communication studies graduate student Kiara Wiedman will be doing follow-up focus groups with area agencies and organizations to evaluate how they’re using the report to improve services.
Read the full report here.