“Youth in Focus has become a place for me to be happy”
Youth in Focus began in 1994 as a small, after-school program where founder Walter Bodle hoped to make a difference for a group of at-risk youth. That summer was a success and now 20 years later, Youth in Focus has served almost 3,000 students and is still making a positive impact on their lives using photography as a tool.
Youth in Focus’ mission is to empower urban youth, through photography, to experience their world in new ways and to make positive choices for their lives. They put cameras in the hands of low income, at-risk youth and place them in a challenging environment surrounded by high quality talented teachers, nurturing adult volunteer mentors, and create a strong community of support.
Through photography students find their voice, identity, creativity, and gain new confidence in their worth and abilities.
We work with youth ages 13-19 years old who, most of the time, carry a backpack of burdens. But when they are at Youth in Focus, they can finally put that down and be themselves in a safe and supportive environment. Students attend classes twice a week for nine-weeks in either black and white film or digital photography. Current students, along with alumni of the program, can also take part in Open Darkroom and Open Digital Lab for seven of those nine weeks. Classes are taught by paid, professional Teaching Artists with support from adult, volunteer mentors. At the end of their course, students present in front of a large, public audience at their End of Quarter Shows. Students discuss their journey at Youth in Focus and share their story about their photography and experience. Photography provides a valuable medium for youth to develop a sense of their own personal style and explore what is personally important for them and worth communicating through their art. It’s amazing how much self-confidence and empowerment a youth can gain in just nine weeks.
I have been in my current position for just over a year and can say that I truly love my job. Being around the student’s energy and excitement breathes new life into every day, ensuring that I never get tired of what I’m doing. It’s true though, that some days are difficult when you see a student struggling with troubles outside of Youth in Focus; however, it’s inspiring to see teacher artists, mentors and other staff members bring a smile to their face.
If you would like to learn more and to get involved with Youth in Focus, please visit http://youthinfocus.org
Photo credit: Pearl N., Youth in Focus student