For the past 3 months I've been mentoring the most brilliant 13 yr old middle school girl from KIPP SF Bay Academy. The program that brought us together is called SPARK - an after-school apprenticeship program that allows kids in under-served communities to experience their 'dream jobs.' It's quite a concept, and I can only imagine the effect this kind of opportunity would have had on me at age 13. To think of it, when I was 13 I wanted to be an archeologist and a professional hockey player- my brain had not been properly introduced to the magic of photography, but I only wish I had been able to work with a creative adult at that point in my life. Middle school is hard enough for everyone, especially for kids that need a little extra support. My student had a strong interest in photography, but not much more. In about 10 2hr meetings she learned how to use a 35mm manual camera (the 35mm I learned on, my Pentax MX), developed a photo essay, and printed a series of her own silver-gelatin photographs. AND drew diagrams of every componant of that process in front of her teachers. I was blown away. During each one of our meetings we laughed, learned something new, and worked toward a clear goal. And ate snacks.
Being able to share my passion for photography is, of course, one of my favorite things to do. But getting to work with such a bright student, and be reminded of how important alternative education is, was such a refreshing experience. As someone who struggled with the traditional learning system my entire education, getting to give back a little opened my eyes probably more than my ramblings on the superiority of film photography did for my student.
True story. Hopefully you're inspired to get involved now, too. And here's the link: SPARK apprenticeship program.
And now for some photos of our Discovery Night:
(my student being so articulate and happy about her contact sheet, and me looking proud in the corner.)
(look at that diagram!! all done by memory.)
(pretty good for her first darkroom prints. ever. at age 13.)