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Posted August 3, 2011

If posters could talk…

…they’d tell you what an incredible group of kids we had the pleasure to meet last week. If you’d like to skip to the end of this story, watch the video and meet the kids yourself as they complete their summer course in messaging and communication.

Where does this story start? Let’s try somewhere in the middle. Over the past couple of months, Jell has been working with Umoja Student Development Corporation — the pioneering West Side school support program founded 13 years ago by semi-legendary Lila Leff and now led by Ted Christians — to produce development tools, polish their positioning, and tighten up their messaging.

As we were completing our project, Ted had a great idea: he invited Jell to come out and work with directly the students in the Umoja Community Builders summer program. We knew that we’d be spending the day, and that we’d be helping with some posters, but not much more.

On arrival, we learned that the 45 students in the program had been working for weeks on topics of restorative justice, choosing their themes, considering lessons learned, and crafting messages they felt needed to be imparted to neighbors in the community. Split into four teams — the Believers, the Resolutionaries, Eagles Honesty, and the Motivators — they had also sketched or imagined visuals for posters which would represent each group in the neighborhood.

Where did we come in? Our job was to make sure the posters happened. That meant listening to the kids and asking questions (discovery), proposing alternative approaches (design and review), building consensus on the ultimate design for each poster, and then executing — all in the space of a few hours. It was an entire client project cycle (actually, four cycles!) compressed into one whirlwind day.

The best part? That’s hard to say. The kids were both earnest and hilarious — truly fun to work with. But they also were incredibly gracious, sending us off with a totally unexpected group cheer, and following up a few days later with a batch of handmade thank-you cards. So we say: thank you Umoja. We could probably use more of that.