This Fall, Samy’s Camera Outreach donated a semester photography course to Westminster Elementary Math & Technology/Environmental Studies Magnet.
Magnet programs aim to diversify and desegregate Los Angeles schools.  Instead of the court-ordered bussing of the 1970’s that mandated “parents to ship their kids across town” (GreatSchools.org), magnet programs attract families by offering popular themes like Science or Performing Arts.  Students are enrolled by lottery, with a point system that helps achieve racial balance. These “prized programs mean principal-selected teachers and higher parent involvement (LA Times),” plus free transportation to ensure access for all students.  So, while Westminster Elementary is located in the upscale Venice neighborhood of Abbot Kinney, 80% of their 400 students come from low-income families.
Westminster prides itself on being “a culturally diverse magnet school where children are continuously challenged.”  Parents rave about the school, too:   “I love that teachers, administration and parents share a common passion for learning and neighborhood unity (Mvoto).”  Innovative Principal Barry Cohen, along with his dedicated staff and plethora of involved parents, works tirelessly to provide all students with unparalleled education and opportunity.
Their program, the school’s website says, is “geared toward children with a love for computers, math, and making the world a better place.”  In addition to using computers as part of their daily routine, students enjoy ample classroom art education, organic gardens integrated into classroom curriculum, and access to various enrichment programs.
It was here that Samy’s Camera Outreach was happy to pitch in.  We donated an eight-week photography course for a class of students the Principal felt would most benefit and not otherwise have access to art education.
Photo by student, Sabrina
What fun we had!  Eight weeks flew by as the eager students showed up (all smiles) and worked hard.  What joy to watch students discover their photography specialty.  Macro, fashion, and sports were (as usual) some of the top favorites.
At graduation, Samy had a holiday surprise for the students.  Samy has a big heart, a soft spot for students, and has always believed in the importance and power of photography in young people’s lives.
After watching their beautiful photos in a slideshow, presenting their work in the gallery show, and receiving their diplomas, the surprise was announced.  Samy’s Camera donated 14 Panasonic waterproof digital cameras and memory cards for the students to continue with their new art form.
One student made a pretend faint to the floor, while her classmates cheered in glee.  My heart swelling, I listened to the students chatter with excited photo plans and newfound pride in themselves – music to any teacher’s ears.