“Getting to know Critical Exposure students and their work provided me with key insights into how school discipline policies affect D.C. youth. Conversations with these extraordinary young people, advocacy groups, school officials and police officers resulted in my commitment to addressing the problem known as the ‘school to prison pipeline’. As part of that effort, I added a provision to the D.C. FY2015 budget requiring that D.C. Public Schools implement a pilot restorative justice program next year. This achieved one goal of the students’ campaign, and I was glad to work with them to begin dismantling the school to prison pipeline. ”
David Grosso, DC Councilmember
“I learned how to take a photo correctly in Critical Exposure, and I got to learn a lot of things about D.C. that I did not know... I felt welcomed when I came to the class. ”
Sharon, 11th grade, The Washington Metropolitan High School
“I learned how to take amazing pictures, and I learned how to start a peer jury by getting the advisors, the teachers, the principals, and everyone on board. In my average class everybody does not participate, but in Critical Exposure everyone speaks their mind and has their own opinions. It made me feel good because now I can give [the principal] some more ideas and maybe she’ll want to do those too. ”
Michelle, 12th grade, The Washington Metropolitan High School
“I did not have any experience with advocacy or public speaking before Critical Exposure, but now I will use what I learned to better myself in life.   ”
Tynia, 11th grade, The Washington Metropolitan High Schoo1
“Talking to my principal and bringing people around, it felt empowering because people were actually listening to us this time instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other. So I felt good about that. I guess they’re seeing that we’re maturing, so they’re starting to listen to us more, and to see what we want out of life. ”
Mike, 12th grade, The Washington Metropolitan High School
“From this program I have learned how to be a leader and to stand up when you want to make a change for something you believe in. ”
Tyrell, 12th grade, The Washington Metropolitan High School
“I like that we take photos to prove our point about things and make change. ”
Tynia, 11th grade, The Washington Metropolitan High School
“After seeing the photographs and hearing the personal stories of Critical Exposure students at The Washington Metropolitan High School, I was impressed by their articulate and thoughtful presentation. I wanted to give a strong response to their request to create a functioning library, so we found a way to allocate additional money for books and library furniture. Through their work on this campaign, our students have learned valuable skills in photography, project planning, and public speaking. Equally important, they have begun to learn what it takes to persuasively advocate for themselves and for their peers, preparing them to be effective leaders in their schools and communities. ”
Chad Ferguson, DCPS Superintendent of Cluster XI Schools
“I think from the photos showing the students actually at GW, enjoying the Upward Bound program, made it convincing for Dean Gomez that, yes, these students really do benefit and prosper from the program. And I think that’s what made him agree to, 'I will help you all out.'   ”
William, 12th Grade, LAYC Upward Bound
“ I was really super-proud of our kids, and how they prepared for the meeting with Dean Gomez. They showed a lot of maturity, a lot of passion, and it just motivates me to keep working with them... Now I know I can push them to do more because they can do more, and they showed it -- they exhibited that yesterday.   ”
Barlow Flores, Program Director, Latin American Youth Center - Upward Bound
“Dean Gomez saw the pictures that were on a slideshow and I believe that they put a face to the statistic -- to the 90% graduation rate from the program and 93% going to college. And then, it was just like, he understood what was happening in the program and what we’re striving to do. And the pictures just brought it out. ”
Jonathan, 11th Grade, LAYC Upward Bound
“When he said he would commit to giving us the $15,000, I was just shocked, because most people like that don’t listen to teenagers for real. They think we’re just fooling around, trying to play games or something. But we're not. ”
Byron, 11th Grade, LAYC Upward Bound
“The entire DOES Youth Programs team and I were absolutely blown away by the photo exhibit created by the youth... Through these photos, the youth were able to bring their experiences to life.  We were actually so impressed by them that we would very much like to display them throughout our office for other youth and partners to see. ”
Gerren Price, Associate Director of the DOES Office of Youth Programs
“I learned things like taking a picture is not just taking a picture. Sometimes you can tell stories about it, you can do something, you could protest about it. I’m glad for this opportunity. ”
Anthony, 11th grade, Luke C. Moore High School
“I’ve stood up in front of audiences but I’m not really used to it. For this presentation I felt confident and I wasn’t really nervous or anything, because it was something we wanted to get done so we had to stand up and do it, to let them know. And that felt good. It was good preparation for the future – standing up, public speaking. ”
Jamal, 12th grade, D.C.
“This project made me want to come to school because of the simple reason that we’re being heard. Because we talk about the little things and next thing you know, you have that change... So we feel like we’ve been heard and we’re just going to continue with this and make the school even better, so that it’s the best for everybody, the staff the teachers, and the students. ”
Anthony, 11th grade, D.C.
“This is my first time ever speaking in front of important people who can hear my opinion and actually do something about it. It’s my first time talking in a public school about something like that. I want to start doing more stuff like that presentation. ”
Anthony, 11th grade, D.C.
“Being in Critical Exposure was very overwhelming because I had something as small as a camera, but it meant so much more to me.  The opportunity to take pictures was my first time to finally be heard, not only by my friends and family, but by the media and public. I learned that even the smallest thing, such as the camera, can give you power and you need to use it in a way that benefits you and your society. ”
Christina, 10th Grade, Philadelphia, PA
“Critical Exposure taught us to take pictures of our everyday lives so we can get in touch with people who do not understand what is going on in the DC public schools. ”
Michaela, 12th grade, Spingarn STAY Senior High School, Washington, DC
“I learned that the conditions of the school were unsafe and that we deserve better learning space than this. ”
Hugh, 11th grade, Washington, DC
“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. ”
Tim Eubanks, Community Organizer, Austin Voices for Education & Youth
“I was on the verge of dropping out again. CE helped me achieve the same high as I got from drugs and alcohol in ways that wouldn't get me in trouble. ”
Byron, 12th grade, Spingarn STAY Senior High School, Washington, DC
“Critical Exposure taught us to take pictures of our everyday lives so we can get in touch with people who do not understand what is going on in the DC public schools. ”
Michaela, 12th grade, Spingarn STAY Senior High School, Washington, DC
“Critical Exposure helped humanize the Education Reform Funding Campaign by putting names, faces and stories behind it. I commend the creative contributions of these young leaders in the school funding victory, and we look forward to partnering with them this upcoming school year. ”
Dr. Lori Shorr, Chief Education Officer, City of Philadelphia
“As a legislator from Baltimore, I believe the compelling photographs and testimony from students working with Critical Exposure were an important factor in convincing my colleagues to support increased funding for public schools. In fact we were able to triple the amount of money we received this year in Annapolis thanks in great part to their efforts. ”
Nathaniel McFadden, Maryland State Senator
“I’ve had the pleasure and the honor of working with Critical Exposure this year. This is the first year Ballou Senior High School has had a photography class and it wouldn't have been as successful without Critical Exposure. On my wall I have ‘What is the Purpose of Photography?’—it’s been up since day one—and the kids, I make them answer that question at the beginning [of the semester]. And now, I can see them say it’s to give them a chance to express themselves and to know that their voice is being heard in a different way. Devonte, a [Ballou] student whose work is on the wall [of the Edison Place Gallery in Washington, DC] and on the website, just to see him excited gets me excited. The students can now see that their work has importance and power-- that photography gives power to them. ”
Kelley Givens, Photography Teacher, Ballou Senior High School
“Critical Exposure is encouraging the students to explore and document the grave issues facing their peers and hopefully shed some light and understanding on why so many teens are dropping out of school. By trying to understand the cause of the [dropout] crisis these photography students are tackling some deep social issues. I think that teaching students photography as a force of change is absolutely brilliant. ”
Jaime Windon, Professional Photographer in Washington, DC who guest teaches Critical Exposure classes
“At the gallery show, the kids were beside themselves with pride and confidence and all the things we like to see. ”
Andria Hollis, Kid Power DC
“We’ve always known that the arts add greatly to the impact of any community conversation or action project but we did not have the expertise to see such a project through. 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. The project benefited the students in being able to see how they can use that skill throughout their lives to document the joy and pain they experience in their schools and communities. ”
Tim Eubanks, Community Organizer, Austin Voices for Education & Youth
“Critical Exposure does incredible work supporting youth who want to learn documentary photography as a way to organize and make their voices heard in DC. We worked with them on our last report—all these amazing photographs were made possible because of the work Critical Exposure did. They worked so well with our youth members, truly ‘get’ social justice/organizing work, and just do a tremendous job from start to finish. ”
Danielle Kurzweil, Youth Action Research Group, DC
“Too many Pennsylvanians remain unaware that the Commonwealth has one of the most inequitable and ineffective systems of funding public education. They want to blame students, parents or teachers for the failures in our schools, but let state policymakers off the hook for ensuring there are adequate resources in the first place. Like the exposé on Walter Reed Army Medical Center, these pictures, we hope, will expose the unacceptable conditions of our schools and prompt public outrage and swift action. ”
Janis Risch, Director, Good Schools Pennsylvania
“Critical Exposure has brought the reality of students' daily lives in dilapidated schools to the attention of policymakers ... The ACLU's efforts to dramatically increase funding for school renovations gets a strong boost from Critical Exposure and the students' vivid depiction of their schools. ”
Bebe Verdery, Director, Maryland ACLU Education Reform Project
“I really love this program and wish I could stay in STEP Up for another year. ”
Shanell, 12th Grade, DC
“I like being part of Critical Exposure because they’re providing me with the knowledge and the equipment to capture a moment and solidify it forever.  With one single picture I can show the world what I saw through my eyes. ”
Luis, Washington, D.C.
“I like that we were able to get the word out about the terrible school conditions and we actually had proof.  [Now] the school board won't say, ‘Well the kids aren't complaining' or 'the kids don't care' or 'how were we supposed to know.’ ”
Alexis, 11th Grade, DC
“The photography class was great. It allowed me to capture a feeling that I couldn’t express with words. I feel as though they should implement the photography class in every DC public school  because for me, it just took so much stress off of my back that I’m actually able to complete school. My brother was a big part of my life, and after his death it put me in a state of depression. When I got that camera and was able to take a picture of [his graduation portrait] and what he liked, the piano, it’s like the stress that I felt, the loss that I felt, I was able to capture all of that in one picture. It took it off of my shoulders and put it on a piece of paper. I will always incorporate photography into my life. I learned to look deeper. I don't just see the smiling group of people. I see the sad kid in the back. Now, I hope to be a counselor. ”
Byron, 12th Grade, DC
“I did not actually realize how bad my school really was until I took pictures of it. Once I realized the conditions of my school were so terrible, I decided to do something about it. I think [the School Modernization Act] was a great help to us. I didn't think it would pass, but once I took the pictures, I was like, ‘This is something I have to fight for.’  I was mad that I ran out of film. ”
Robert, 11th Grade, DC
“The art exhibition in Annapolis was my first ‘professional’ photo experience, and to think that it was with Maryland senators and delegates is simply overwhelming. It feels good to have an outlet and hit the real world with my voice and my experience. I'd seen [State Delegate] Catherine Pugh on a billboard that morning-- I was showing her photographs of my school at 6:00 that evening. Thanks to Critical Exposure, I've been noticed, heard, and made a difference. ”
Ian, 10th Grade, Baltimore, MD