Introduction by  Dafna Lemish, Ph.D.
Professor and Interim Dean of the College
of Mass Communication and Media Arts
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Chester has charmed me since my first visit there upon moving to Southern Illinois. My family enjoys picnics along the Mississippi River and loves the sights of the mighty bridge and river traffic.

Childhood memories of the iconic figure of Popeye always accompany me on our visits. I was, therefore, thrilled to learn that our college’s photojournalism students would spend a weekend there, supported by the community.

The photos and stories in this outstanding book are evidence of that experience as they document Chester’s vibrancy, with its diverse families and individuals from all walks of life and ages. Collectively, the intimate details of these young photographers’ work present to us so many aspects of life in Chester – from labor to arts, sports to personal relationships, and the natural world to the human-made environment created there.

Browsing through this colorful book, I am struck by the energy it portrays and the mosaic of life in the Chester community. The message I receive is one of optimism about a future of growth and development, active community life and collective spirit.

While this was an opportunity for our students to hone professional skills, engage in photojournalism and experience the pleasure of artistic expression, it also enabled them to gain insights into the richness of community life in Illinois.

These photos are the result of the labor of our hardworking and talented students; their dedicated faculty teachers and mentors; an impressive list of dedicated professionals, alumni, and friends of Southern Illinois University who volunteered to guide and support this undertaking; and foremost, the many members of the Chester community who supported and assisted us so warmly throughout this endeavor.

We thank all of you for your contributions to this powerful learning experience. They enabled us to achieve so successfully the dual aims of this project: first, to advance SIU’s mission by offering students opportunities to gain knowledge and develop their skills, to learn the value of engagement with communities and environment, and to direct their education to the betterment of society; and second, to contribute this book to our host community.

Thus, I want to thank the many people who made both this project and book possible, and especially the project director, Professor Mark Dolan of SIU’s School of Journalism.

This book is a striking reminder of SIU’s deep roots in this region, and how the interdependency of the region and the university enables us all to continue to develop this beautiful southern Illinois. As we serve and learn from one another, we also collaborate in crafting our collective well-being and future.

Finally, I hope that browsing through the pages of this book will serve as a reminder to all of us of how proud we should be of our accomplishments and how much we can achieve working together!

Read more about Chester:

Sharing some Popeye magic

Living for art and music

Alone together

Farming across generations

St. John Lutheran Church and School

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