In December I started volunteering at St. Paul’s Neighborhood House as a co-teacher of English language to adult immigrants and refugees. As I have gotten to know this non-profit, I have also started donating my photography services for events, promotional brochures and newsletters. This has allowed me to see the greater extent of the truly good work this non-profit provides for local people, communities and greater Twin Cities as a whole.
Recently they asked me to come over to take a group photo of the GRIPS (gang reduction intervention program) group which I didn’t know anything about. I was sent a recent article about how the St. Paul police intervened days before a gang initiation of 11 girls and boys. Instead of arresting them all, they took a different approach and invited the kids and their families to a group where they could talk about what was happening, consequences and alternatives. After reading the article (which I unfortunately can’t link to anymore) I was struck by the intensity of the circumstances and importance of the intervention which saved lives and life paths.The Neighborhood House plays a role in this because they offer positive, safe adult-monitored groups for high-risk kids to attend after school and resources like a gym, tutors and positive people as role models.
Cha-Cho, who is the amazing and inspiring leader and organizer of this group asked me to take individual portraits of the kids which I was happy to do. As I was photographing the boys, I never thought “at risk” or “gang” they just seemed like young men who were maybe silly or shy or trying to be tough despite a sincerity that came through while photographing. Cha-cho said these kids have probably never had a one-on-one experience with a photographer and may have extremely few photographs of themselves. I thought they seemed like polite nice kids. These were my favorites.