Program Encourages Youth Advocacy Through Photography

For 14 years, a D.C. program has been getting young people involved in advocacy through photography.

The organization believes young people like Rae and Donovan have some of the most power stories to tell.

Rae, 18, didn’t know what she wanted to be and never thought she'd be a photographer, but she knew she had a story to tell if she could just get an adult to listen.

"I’ve always wanted to help people and make a change or show people that change is possible," she said.

So did Donovan.

“In my opinion, without CE, I’d probably be dead right now — in all reality,” he said.

CE is Critical Exposure, a non-profit that uses cameras to empower students who grow up in tough D.C. neighborhoods. The program teaches students how to document the world around them and then create a campaign to change it.

“I think it’s really important for us as adults to recognize that young people are directly impacted by these issues and are the experts," founder Adam Levner said.

Currently, they're trying to get financial literacy classes into D.C.'s public school curriculum.

"Once we do our brainstorming, we got our topic and our issue we want to focus on, we do our research," Donovan said.

Through CE, students have documented transformative events, like the riots in Baltimore.

“A couple of them instinctively got on the train with their cameras and went up to Baltimore and took what I think are some of the most powerful shots I’ve seen,” Levner said.

Rae and Donovan know this program has changed their lives.

“Coming here, it kind of disciplined me when it came to self-control, and I like that,” Donovan said.

“In being here, I’ve learned to just pause what I’m thinking and be able to listen to everybody else," Rae said.

And these young people can teach adults something about life.

“Your brain will always think of different pathways, sort of like a stream, but it flows into different rivers, but they all meet at the same ocean,” said Rae.

Reported by Leon Harris, produced by Michelle Rivera and edited by Perkins Broussard.

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