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Partnering with Critical Exposure allowed us to further develop the creative skills of the students and utilize those skills to provide greater context to the issues.
This summer Critical Exposure worked with a group of students who used photography to advocate for more funding for their college prep program -- and they won!
The students attend public and public charter schools throughout the city, but they come together to participate in an Upward Bound program through the Latin American Youth Center. Upward Bound is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that prepares under-served students for higher education. Students participate in a 6-week summer institute at George Washington University, and for two of those weeks they live in the University dorms to experience the college lifestyle firsthand.
During the summer, our students identified the dorm stay as the single most important part of the summer program. They learned from their program director, Barlow Flores, that LAYC pays GWU more than $15,000 to house their students for the two-week residential component. After researching the rest of the program budget, the students also learned that with $15,000 LAYC could provide two more week-long college tours, or they could bring three additional students into the Upward Bound family.
The students decided to use photography to illustrate their personal stories about why they joined Upward Bound and why they continue to attend. They put together a presentation and invited Joel Gomez, a dean of the Graduate School for Education, to their class. They exhibited their photos, shared their stories, and asked Dean Gomez if he could help them find $15,000 from GWU to cover the cost of the dorms.
Dean Gomez responded with a resounding "yes" before sharing his own personal story of challenges, perseverance and success. Dean Gomez committed to helping the students to find at least $15,000 from GWU by March of 2012, but he hopes to take the campaign much further. He is now planning to set up meetings so that the students can share their photos with the Dean of the Graduate School of Education and the University's Board of Trustees. He believes that the youth's powerful testimony about the importance of Upward Bound can help secure additional funding for years to come.
To see a few of the student photos that helped win over Dean Gomez, click here.