About the Civic Life Project
The Civic Life Project is an innovative educational tool created by award-winning documentary filmmaker and 1972 Lawrence graduate Catherine Tatge and her husband, Dominique Lasseur. It is designed to challenge students to learn about civics and democracy in a unique way, discover more about the community in which they reside and find their own individual voices through the creation of documentary videos.
Topics for the videos grew out of conversations Tatge conducted with numerous Fox Cities community leaders to identify issues of local concern. Three-member teams of Lawrence students shared roles of writer, editor, producer, director and videographer in creating the documentaries.
The titles and topics of the 2015 videos include:
- "Brown Water," An examination of the interaction between dairy farming and water quality along the Niagara Escarpment.
- "A Generation On Change," A transgender youth fights for not only her rights, but also for other transgender youths in the Fox Valley.
- "Mental Health in the Prison System," An exploration into the value and use of mental health diagnosis and treatment in the criminal justice system.
- "A Second Chance," One individual’s struggle through heroin addiction and recovery.
The titles and topics of the 2014 videos include:
- "Before Bars," the story of disproportionate imprisonment of minorities
- "Living with Dementia," the challenges faced by caregivers and individuals suffering from the disease
- "Labeled for Life," the challenges sex offenders face reintegrating into our community
- "If you can't reach 'em, you can't teach 'em," the achievement gap in Appleton-area schools
- "Domestic Violence and Schools," the effects of domestic violence on children’s performance at school.
The titles and topics of the 2013 videos include:
- "Muted," a look at victims of sex trafficking in Appleton.
- "Walking Alone," an examination of homophobia and its consequences seen through the eyes of teenagers who suffer the brunt of its isolation and rejection.
- "Adelante" (Forward), an exploration of the plight of undocumented teen immigrants.
- "Rooted," a documentation of the challenges of balancing assimilation with maintaining cultural identity in the Hmong community.
- "Homeless Veterans of the Fox Valley," a look at the daily struggles facing some who have served our country when they return home.
"The Civic Life Project has been a transformative experience for Lawrence students, showing them that they have a voice in our democracy," said Tatge, who is in her third year as an artist-in-residence at Lawrence. "I hope these films spark meaningful dialogue throughout the community and help the Fox Valley become an even more welcoming and healthy place to live."
The Civic Life Project at Lawrence is modeled after a similar program Tatge and Lasseur launched in 2010 in their home state of Connecticut. The program starts in the classroom with an examination of the structure of democracy and ends in the theater with the screening of the documentaries the students create. Since it began, the program has been incorporated into the curriculum at 10 Connecticut high schools.