Youth Creativity Raises Funds and Spreads Message

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A young person taking photographs.

“My dream is to find myself.”

“Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

“My dream is for higher education.”

Young people from Gateway Youth Services, a division of Child and Family Charities in Lansing, Michigan, have produced beautiful photographs of their hopes and dreams. Using these images, the youth-serving organization has created greeting cards available for sale online. To learn more about this program, we spoke to Sophia Estrada-Ferreira, Street Outreach Coordinator at Gateway Youth Services. “One-hundred percent of proceeds go straight back into our shelter,” says Estrada-Ferreira.

Linda Solomon, an award winning photographer, created the national program called "Pictures of Hope," which allows homeless youth to explore their creative side through the lens of their very own camera. After visiting over 50 shelters, Solomon brought her program to Gateway, where she provided photography lessons to the youth shelter as part of a collaboration with Michigan State University.

[Learn how art brings healing to at-risk youth.]

After the lessons were over, each young person teamed up with a mentor from Michigan State University’s Out of the Box “street team.” Shelter youth received their very own professional digital cameras, donated by Walgreen’s and Kroger as part of their mission of supporting families. “It was a really amazing experience for youth that participated in the event,” Estrada-Ferreira enthused.

Since the project included distribution of creative work as well as potential contact with the media, young people needed a parental release and permissions. “That was a hindrance for some of our youth,” because they simply couldn’t participate without those permissions, said Estrada-Ferreira. Also, not all participating young people were comfortable dealing with the press, so the team worked to find appropriate roles for each of them. The photographic images debuted this May, on the first floor at Michigan State University's Communication Arts and Sciences Building.

And the young person who dreamt of higher education? Her dream is coming true. She received the very first Hope Scholarship from Kroger, and plans to attend Blackburn College in Illinois.

[Reflect on the past five years of youth-driven storytelling through art.]

Gateway Youth Services sells the cards through collaborations with local businesses in Project Safe Zone, a partnership with the shelter program, and with local farmers markets in the community. Youth in the program are considering selling the cards at a table in the lobby or entryway of the state capitol building in Lansing.

“When you show children that you care about what they wish for in life, it builds self-esteem,” Solomon says. “The children’s photographs express their heart. Their photo assignment to photograph their ‘hopes and dreams’ is life-changing.”

Additional Resources

Read about Linda Solomon’s Pictures of Hope project.

Learn how FYSB grantees encourage young people to share their stories in creative and engaging ways.

Learn how survivors of family violence use photography to heal.

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