When Denise Logan read an article in the Athens Banner-Herald about the need for more extracurricular programs at the Oconee Street Boys & Girls Club, she saved it.
Many of the almost 8,000 students who attend school in Athens-Clarke County are children of working-poor families and don't have access to many after-school extracurricular activities, especially in the arts.
"When this opportunity to apply for a seed grant to help start local outreach programs came up, it just kind of all clicked," said Logan, a public service associate at the University of Georgia's Center for Continuing Education. With help from Kathleen McDermott, a program coordinator at the Georgia Center, Logan started "My Place at the Boys & Girls Club," an after-school photography program for at-risk students. The 12-week program exposed 15 children, ages 10 to15, to the art of photography.
The students learned the basics about cameras and composition and completed specific assignments related to every week's lesson plan. The program also focused on developing the students' writing skills. In addition to working on an individual scrapbook, each student wrote about their pictures and discussed them with the whole class.
"It was a great program," said Clemon Hull, 14. "I learned how to take pictures and how to load a camera." One of Clemon's pictures was chosen to be on the back of the program's T-shirts.
Five UGA student mentors were assigned to groups of three participants who they worked with throughout the 12 weeks.
"We wanted to have a one-to-one mentorship where the students would have time for mentoring and really work with the individual and develop a rapport at the end of the 12 weeks," Logan said.
Sarah Watkins, a UGA junior majoring in photography and mass communication, decided to help with the program because of the chance to be involved with photography, but she ended up loving the whole experience.
"In the beginning the kids were only posing for pictures between friends but then they really focused on the texture and other aspects of photography and you could tell at the end their pictures were very artistically done," she said.
The highlight of the program came when the Boys & Girls Club students visited UGA's Tate Center, where their photographs were exhibited.
"I'd have to say going with the students to view their work at the Tate Center gallery was pretty priceless. It really brought everything together and made me realize just how lucky I was to have been a part of this project," said Jeff Reynolds, the program's photography instructor.
Following the Tate Center exhibit, the students' photographs were also displayed at the Georgia Center and Ciné, an Athens "arthaus" and café.