Youth in Focus

Youth in Focus (YIF) is a nationally-recognized, Seattle-based youth development program that provides urban teens the opportunity to express themselves and gain new experiences through photography. (learn more)35mm_slr_camera

TB learned about YIF back in February from a close friend who volunteers at a Seattle crisis hotline. Our friend figured my hobby as an amateur photography and my interest in doing volunteer work would make YIF a perfect match. The only qualifications were I had to know how to operate a manual 35mm camera (i.e., go olskool), I had to have basic darkroom skills and I had to be willing to work with a culturally diverse teen (whatever that means).

I submitted an application to become a YIF mentor immediately. At the time, things were crazy busy at work so I mentioned on my application I would not be available until the summer quarter. One of the program coordinators, Sam, called me earlier this month, and after a couple rounds of phone tag we scheduled an interview.

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I planned to catch the bus from work and back since my appointment was at 5:30PM at the YMCA on 24th Ave South. I planned my trip using the Metro King County Trip Planner and vetted the route with my resident transit authority, Bus Chick. She always looks out for me whenever I muster enough courage to explore the wonderfully wild and fulfilling world of bussing it around Seattle. With Bus Chick certified trip plans I was set. But, a couple hours before I needed to leave, one of my teammates kindly offered to drop me off. We were able to take the carpool lane so it was still a little friendlier to the environment.

The interview took about 45 minutes and was painless. Mentors can participate in one of two ways: Darkroom or field work. For the darkroom, I would be expected to assist the student in developing his film and making prints. I have darkroom experience and it was always an awesome feeling to see the pictures I took come to life. The field work option would entail accompanying the student to his shooting assignment and helping him capture his subjects and scenes. I prefer field work. I would choose taking pictures in the rain over developing masterpieces in the darkroom every time. (I will probably regret writing that at some point.)

So as a field operative (of sorts) the major rules and regulations for mentors are:

  1. The student cannot ride in your car…ever.
  2. The student cannot be in your home…ever.
  3. Students are assigned mentors of the same sex.
  4. Mentors must commit to 10-15 hours per 9-week quarter and meet with the student at least 4 times.
  5. Mentors must attend an orientation and training session. (Mine is June 4th.)

Rules 1-3 are the common sense “Have you ever appeared on Dateline’s To Catch a Predator?” or “Have you ever been employed by Neverland Ranch?” candidate repellant stipulations. Sickos be warned: YIF conducts background checks and they took a photocopy of my drivers license. Thankfully, I don’t have any warrants.

I took the bus back home and Bus Chick’s guidance was on point as usual. Serendipitously, Mr. Bus Chick, aka Bus Nerd, was transferring at Montlake on his way home at the same time I was heading back to the eastside. His bus was coming so he stopped long enough to say hey and congratulate me on taking the bus. Coming from Bus Nerd, that made my day.

It is said the best way to really master something is to teach it to someone else. I am really looking forward to helping a local teen explore the world of photography and tap into his creativity while viewing things through the camera’s lens. It should be a lot of fun.

3 Replies to “Youth in Focus”

  1. 😉 This is great Keith. I am happy for you. I am sure this will be a fulfilling experience.

  2. Hey Jonetta,

    Thanks, I think so too. If not, you know I’m blaming you, right? Especially if I get jacked for my equipment. 😉

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