Amy S. Leavitt, Las Vegas, NV, USA:
One of the most inspiring things I heard this year is that the kids at the Shannon West Homeless Youth Center are motivated by the portraits on the wall of the center. These portraits are of kids that we photographed in previous Help-Portrait events. One homeless youth stated that he looks at these portraits and is inspired and motivated because these are teens that have gone through so much, worked hard through the program at the center, and have made it out. They have made lives for themselves, and he feels that if they can do it, he can. I am amazed that just having the portraits on the wall can be such an incredible motivation for these young people. It just goes to show the far reaching effect that Help-Portrait can have.
Last year at our Help-Portrait 2011 event, one girl had the most beautiful green eyes. While I was photographing her, I complimented her a few times. Other photographers also told her how beautiful they were. She later said that she had never considered her eyes anything special, and no one had ever told her they were beautiful. I have never forgotten this. This is another far-reaching consequence of Help-Portrait. It changes the way they see themselves. Tylor is now seeing herself as beautiful, and is considering a career in modeling.
The year 2012 was our 4th year photographing at the homeless youth center. We had more photographers and assistants this year than any other year. We also had many more youth at the center want to be photographed because they are starting to “get” what we do. This is the first year the kids really got into being a “rock star” for the day. They really embraced the process and opened up to this new experience.