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December 12, 2018  |  

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Recently proposed “I Matter” Project installation on Audubon Street in New Haven

Recently proposed “I Matter” Project installation on Audubon Street in New Haven (Rob Goldman )

“I Matter” Project brings adolescent ISSUES into sharp focus

Published Nov. 09, 2017

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4 years ago, The "I Matter" Pproject is an art-based character education and community engagement program. The program was launched in 2013 and has been successfully implemented in many public venues including colleges, libraries, civic associations, middle schools and high schools, including the Raymond Lesniak Recovery High School, the first recovery high school in New Jersey. The “I Matter” Project synthesizes the visual impact of a public art installation with that of athe intergenerational discourse of a live community forum, focused on youth and their well-being. The program engages, and empowers and inspires social awareness and change, individually and communally, community at largeof such critical topics as adolescent suicidality, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and mental illness. The “I Matter” Project features publically displayed, large-scale photographic portraits of adolescents and young adults accompanied superimposed with printed declarations of each subject’s their self-worth. self-worth…in other words, why they each matter. Until now, “I Matter” participants have photographed one another and the results have been eye-catching, somewhat quirky images. For theIn the newest iteration, the project’s founder and director, Rob Goldman has added his 25+ years of professional photography experience by creating take over as photographer, riveting black and white portraits that beg viewers’ lasting attention and encouragethat compel empathic engagement and social-minded discourse. To date, the project has been installed in 4 public libraries, 2 colleges, and in Raymond Lesniak Recovery High School, New Jersey’s first recovery high school. Mr. Goldman unveiled the latest iteration of the “I Matter” Project at his TEDx talk in February 2017. This version is aimed at bringing the topic of rampant teen suicidality into sharp focus.. The new design is modular and portable, making it practical to install at an array of venues, including social service agencies, civic centers, airports, shopping malls, town halls, corporate lobbies, colleges and public schools. The “I Matter” Project is premised on a collaborative model with community stakeholders and hosting organizations that partner with the “I Matter” team to ensure its success and impact. Hosting organizations have an obligation towork to promote the program and invite community members, employees, students, faculty, etc. to participate in a facilitated forum in a safe space that provokes candid discourse , an arena where people of all ages can openly share their feelings and experiences regarding issues that plague today’s youth, suchplaguing our youth, including as family life, education, drug and alcohol use, political climate, social media, technology addiction, anxiety, depression and suicide. In the coming months, the “I Matter” Project will add an interactive, online experience where visitors will be invited to privately listen, on their smart phones, to audio excerpts of each featured subject as they offer candid insight into their personal challenges growing up in today’s world. This multimedia addition to the project will mindfully and poignantly connect individuals and the community at large. Various national studies indicate that currently, one in twelve college students has made a plan for suicide; the suicide rate among 15 to 24-year-olds has tripled since the 1950s. Significant research at UCLA indicates “the emotional health of incoming students is at its lowest point in 30 years.” (Culp-Ressler) In response to the staggering growth of anxiety, depression and suicide amongst college-aged students, I am widening the scope of the project to include suicide prevention awareness and including numerous college-age subjects who have attempted suicide. Several months ago, we the “I Matter” Project broadened itsour reach by recruiting singer-songwriter, Alan Semerdjian to write and record the “I Matter” anthem, Shine On, featuring the voices of middle school and high school students. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-RWJ0Q_sDc They are now in the final stages of producing an accompanying music video. The “I Matter” project grew its roots in Long Island, New York where it was repeatedly featured on Verizon Fios Push Pause television program https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoR_Va5c2Bo. Mr. Goldman recently relocated from Long Island to Guilford, Connecticut and brought the “I Matter” Project in tow. The New Haven community has given a warm welcome to the “I Matter” Project as Goldman is already collaborating on various levels with the Greater New Haven Arts Council, Project Youth Court, Downtown New Haven and New Light High School. For more information contact Rob Goldman at (516) 848-4790 or rob@imatterproject.org.

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