This Project will bring Camera Companies, Photography Stores and Individual Photographers together with High Schools with the goal of every school to have a well equipped photography after-school program. According to Afterschool Alliance more than 15 million school-age children (26 percent) are on their own after school.  Only 8.4 million K-12 children (15 %) participate in after-school programs. An additional 18.5 million would participate if a quality program were available in their community.

Why are after-school programs important? The hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. Teens who do not participate in afterschool programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes than teens who do participate. They are also three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs, and are more likely to drink, smoke and engage in sexual activity.

Why a photography oriented after-school program? Unlike a lot of other types of art it has a certain technological requirement – namely you need a camera and other equipment to exercise your creativity. There are countless people out in the world that are photographers… but no one knows them as such because they never had an access to the camera, so their talent was never revealed, it never grew. That is a great loss to the world – imagine Michelangelo without a brush and canvas, Mozart without a piano, or more close to the topic Ansell Adams without a camera. The world would be a much bleaker place. Because of the relatively high cost of cameras lower-income kids may never have access to a camera of their own while they are at a prime age to start developing their creativity. And because of this they will most likely forever remain photographers without cameras.

If we get cameras in these teens hands, the possibilities are limitless. They will have an outlet for their energy and talent, they will explore and they will create. If we get these cameras to them in a framework of a well-organized after-school program we can change their lives and have them realize their full potential. Early childhood education expert James Heckman concluded that a compliment of early education and participation in after-school programs can reduce initiating drug use among youth by nearly 46 percent while reducing the likelihood of them skipping school by half. An analysis of 73 after-school studies concluded that after-school programs were consistently successful in producing multiple benefits for youth, including improvements in childrens’ personal, social and academic skills, as well as their self-esteem. Participants in after-school programs are much more likely to go on to high-quality high schools compared to non-participants (65 percent vs. 26 percent). Those who attend often are also more likely to be promoted to tenth grade on time (92 percent vs. 81 percent). Earning promotion to tenth grade on time is a key predictor of high school graduation. I think we owe it to these kids, to ourselves and to the world, to set up these programs.

All after-school programs will help, but I chose photography because it spoke to me when I was teenager. Once I got a camera into my hands I never stopped photographing and I never stopped learning. And I want to give access to that possibility to anyone who wants it.

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