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RCC students launch magazine focused on homelessness

Last year, while Rogue Community College graphic design student Amanda Esquivel worked toward completing her education, a two-fold goal began to take shape in her mind: Connect first- and second-year RCC students, and make a positive impact in the Rogue Valley.

The eventual solution was to help serve the local homeless population and to highlight the issue through a student-produced magazine.

“We would all be able to collaborate on one project and be able to bring awareness to an issue that’s actually affecting our local community,” Esquivel said.

Now Esquivel and other contributors can hold the result in their hands. The inaugural issue of Design 4 Change contains articles on multiple topics, including homelessness data, tiny houses, Compassion Highway Project, resources, and ways to get involved. Original photos pepper the issue’s 24 pages.

“It’s nice to see the tangible evidence of hard work,” said student and magazine contributor Camille Ireland. “I’m really partial to this project, because I was one of those people. And so to be on the other side of (it), being able to look at this page and know that we were able to do our part and give back, it means a lot.”

Ireland was homeless for about five years, she said, living out of her car in the Grants Pass area.

“The biggest struggle was trying to find somewhere to just be and be OK, and trying to find food,” Ireland said, adding she also struggled with drug addiction before getting clean in April 2017.

Now she is involved in a 12-step program, she’s a full-time student and works in RCC’s marketing department.

“I have a home. I have a car. I have all the things in my life that I didn’t have before,” she said.

The road to printing the first issue of Design 4 Change began with RCC’s design club, Studio B: Rogue Design Hive. In early winter, club participants met to discuss social issues they wanted to take on.

“We wanted to push the envelope with our design and go further than just classroom work,” Ireland said. “And we wanted to be able to implement change and effectiveness and show that our skills can be more than just making posters, that we can affect people in our community, and we can help them.”

The group got connected to the Compassion Highway Project, a Medford organization that serves homeless people through a variety of efforts, including clothing and shoe donations, hair cuts and food service. They helped out by volunteering, then later began work on the magazine.

“As they experienced it directly, they saw that they were contributing, they were making a change,” Studio B advisor Heidi Harless said.

Harless recognized the scale of commitment from the club, so she was confident in their ability to pull it off.

“I knew they could do it,” she said. “They’re so talented and hardworking.”

Research conducted while putting the magazine together revealed to Esquivel that Oregon has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the nation. Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report showed Oregon was tied for third-highest rate of homelessness in the U.S. at 38 people per 10,000, with an estimated 15,876 people experiencing homelessness that year.

“I knew that our community could do better,” Esquivel said. “I felt like actually advocating and expressing this information would kind of shine light and bring discussion in regards to what we can do as a community.”

Highlighting available resources was a key component of the team’s efforts, Esquivel added.

The eight-person team worked on the writing, photography, design and layout for about two months, Ireland said. They were also able to pick up several sponsors. The magazine rolled off the presses in January, totaling 300 copies.

“It feels great,” Esquivel said. “It’s an amazing experience for first-year students as well. When you first get into any kind of creative degree, you’re kind of self conscious of the work that you do. But working with second-year students, and kind of the integration of the two, students are actually able to hold a magazine and be proud of it and put it in their portfolio. Through group work, they’re able to generate amazing things.”

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.

Rogue Community College students, from left, Amanda Esquivel, Sao Beasley and Camille Ireland at a Compassion Highway Project event. The students were part of a group that produced a magazine highlighting homelessness in the Rogue Valley. Courtesy photo