Oakland students, local businesses pair up for graphic design needs

The Latitude High students sat behind a fold-out table, folders with their graphic design portfolios laid out in front of them. They were feeling a little shy and a little excited. What would people think of their work? Who was going to pick them to work on designs for a local business or nonprofit?

“I was nervous at first but I liked getting the feedback,” said Mariah, a Latitude senior. “So it was really helpful.”

Sitting next to her was Lorenzo, also a Latitude senior. “I love to show the work that I do here,” he said. “Like Mariah, I love to receive feedback about what’s good and what they like.”

Local business owners and community members like Stephisha Ycoy-Walton went table to table to meet with students and check out their design portfolios.

Mariah, Lorenzo and other Latitude High graphic design students were all participating in an event hosted by the school that connects local businesses with graphic design needs with student designers. 

Tables were arranged in the school’s courtyard for the students to display their work. Local business owners and non-profit employees moved from table to table chatting with the students and viewing their portfolios, in a kind of speed-dating format. That was followed by people from the community rating student designer preferences to find the best fit.  

Christian Martinez is a former Latitude educator who was one of the event’s organizers. He said it’s important for students to learn how to go through the design process and how to work with clients to reach a final product everyone can be happy with. 

Latitude High students with their graphic design portfolios.

“The students can see that they are developing skills that will help them during high school, but also after high school,” he said. 

Christian said that when he was a kid growing up in Oakland, he would design posters for local businesses for a few bucks. That led to the idea of bringing together businesses and students on campus. 

“It’s a win-win,” Christian said. “The community is helping the students, and the students are helping their community as well.”

Stephisha Ycoy-Walton is an Oakland public school parent who is also a candidate for a political office: she’s running for the Alameda County School Board in 2024. Stephisha said she attended the design event and was eager to work with the young people and add a student lens to her campaign. 

Christina Martinez (left) interviews Stephisha Ycoy-Walton.

“They can literally say, ‘I was the reason people saw this campaign,’” Stephisha said. “They can say, ‘We may not be able to vote but we definitely played a part.’”

Stephisha said she was impressed with the students’ portfolios she viewed, their different styles and strengths. 

“Next time we have to extend this event by like 30 minutes,” she said. “Because these students are majorly artistic.” 

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