In the past quarter century, there’s been a dramatic drop in crime rates among Los Angeles youth.  Uniquely dramatic compared to other large cities.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of gun fatalities amongst youth fell 83%.  Youth incarceration fell from 7,000 to 1,500.  Drug offenses, felonies, homicides, and rape—they, too, fell an average of 80%.

Samy's Camera OutreachThere’s no officially stated reason why, but here at Samy’s Camera, we’d like to propose a candidate for the positive turn of events:  The Sheriff’s Youth Foundation (SYF) of Los Angeles. Founded in 1985, SYF administers six programs to “help at-risk youth grow [into] successful adults.” For kids whose families have been torn apart by gang violence, drug use or poverty, these programs are a lifeline to a better future.

Over the past six years, Samy’s Camera has teamed up with SYF to offer free photography education. Granting us an up-close view of the important work they are doing to keep kids away from crime.

The SYF’s six programs help teens in a myriad of ways.  Their 5-week BEAR (Bicycle Education And Registration) program teaches bike safety and repair skills on confiscated or donated bicycles that the kids keep.

IMG_7706The SHARE program, in collaboration with the Museum of Tolerance, sends a mobile theater around the city—screening a documentary on hate crimes, followed by a deputy-led discussion.

In conjunction with the LA Dept. of Children & Family Services, ‘999 for Kids’ assists physically and mentally challenged children.  STAR educates 100,000+ students per year on the dangers of drugs, gangs, and violence.

Academy-style program, VIDA offers counseling through the Chicago School of Psychology in LA, a career fair, and the VIDA Games.

The sixth program, the Youth Activities League (YAL), is a collection of 17 facilities that serve as a safe haven during the crucial 3 to 7 pm time slot, when unsupervised kids can find themselves in trouble on the streets. At the YAL of West Hollywood, Samy’s Camera Outreach has provided free photography courses and field trips for teens at the Plummer Park facility.

We recently held a photography workshop there and, as always, it was a joy to work with their students.  The rest of my week, I teach photography at elementary schools for our afterschool program Samy’s Camera Photo Camp.  Teaching teenagers is a fun and BIG change!

Samy's Camera OutreachI start with a crash course on the basic principles of photography—composition, perspective, color, and exposure.  Then we hone in on Macro, Portrait & Action photography—discussing lighting modification, tripod use, pre-focus & panning techniques, and more.  The second half of the workshop, I hand out cameras and we practice our new skills outdoors at the beautiful, green Plummer Park. Students receive their images on DVD, plus a selection of prints.

Samy's Camera OutreachThe fantastic and dedicated, Deputy Sean Ruiz deserves major accolades for keeping this partnership going.  He’s a tireless advocate for YAL teens.  Deputy Ruiz facilitates a class by Guitar Center and the popular Kids Got Talent competition, in addition to serving as mentor and surrogate family figure for the teens at YAL Plummer Park.

Next up, Deputy Ruiz and I have plans for a field trip to a local park, a big hit in the past.   Hands-on tours at our flagship store have been another favorite of the kids.  Past participant Kaiya C. went so far as to call the tour “magnificent.”  Glad you enjoyed it, Kaiya!

It’s our pleasure here at Samy’s Camera to highlight the good work law enforcement is doing in our community.  We will continue working with YAL, helping kids find the voice and confidence to strive for a brighter future.