Sustainable Prospects, Coursework - Networking

I recently connected with a local journalist, Tim Trainor, regarding a story he is writing about law enforcement in Wheeler County, Oregon. Wheeler is the poorest, least populated, and fastest shrinking county in Oregon, with  just 1,100 residents spread across 1,700 square miles. Due to a lack of funding, understaffing and the difficulties of the position, Wheeler County’s Sheriff is resigning from his position, along with the three deputies who work under him. On their departure, there has been a question as to whether they will be replaced. I initially contacted Tim as I believe that an interesting photo essay could arise from this story, particularly due to the notorious, lawless ‘Wild West’ which once existed in this part of the country.

Whilst I still have interest in creating accompanying images for this story, Tim also shared an article that he wrote earlier this year entitled Graduating Class of Three - A story about high school students in Wheeler county. This story really resonated with me due to my interest in young residents in rural regions of central Oregon. Tim’s article notes the disadvantages that students attending rural schools face, and also states that most who graduate and move onto college, do not return.  Wheeler High School, which has just 35 students across all its grades is based in Fossil, (Pop. 446). The town is most well known for its public fossil beds, which are actually located on the high school grounds.

Documenting the lives of youth in this region, particularly those attending Wheeler High School seems to be a promising story that would align with the interests I already have in this part of Oregon. I have visited Fossil on one of my shooting excursions, but have not spend much time there. My next steps will be contacting the school to see if they are open to me taking photos, or if they are able to connect with with families who might be willing to collaborate with me. 

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