Teaching Photography & Advocacy to D.C. Youth

by Critical Exposure

This summer we passed the mic - our students are teaching our classes! We launched our first-ever Summer Youth Facilitator Institute, and trained three star students -- Malik, Khadijah, and Anaise -- to work with other youth and teach them to use photography as a tool for social change. Together the SYFI teachers are working with three groups of youth - Cathedral ScholarsDC Promise Neighborhood Initiative, and Guerilla Arts Ink. Check out the photo below to see what they've created!

Also, CE Fellow Orlando is interning this summer with the Advancement Project. This interview asks him about his work with CE and his fight for solutions to the school-to-prison pipeline!

Students are tired of ineffective and unexplained disciplinary policies at DC Met and other schools. They'd like to see a shift towards restorative justice -- a proven alternative to zero-tolerance disciplinary policies. Click here to read a New York Times article on how restorative justice policies are being used in Oakland schools.

DC Met students are not alone in their push for restorative justice. CE's Fellows have been advocating for these alternative discipline programs in all D.C. schools - and their work was recently the subject of a Washington Post front page feature!

Thank you for all of your support - our work would not be possible without dedicated supporters like you!



CE's Fellowship students from D.C. high schools are launching their campaign for solutions to the school-to-prison-pipeline!They're tired of seeing (and being) pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system for being low-income youth of color.

The Fellows are advocating for restorative justice programs in all D.C. public schools. Restorative justice programs seek to build stronger relationships between students and their school communities through teacher and staff training and student-led initiatives like peer juries.
One student, Sean (aka "Lucky") documented police officers harassing a student before school one morning. "I took this photo because I saw how the police were harassing the student."
Sean aka Lucky
Sean aka Lucky
Photo by Samera
Photo by Samera


Every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school. 

Samera was one of them. Twice.

In her junior year, Samera – a bright, charming and talented teen – became the target of bullies. She was harassed so severely that she dropped out. Samera cut herself off from friends and rarely left home. 

She eventually decided to try again and enrolled in a charter school. A few months later, she was told that she’d have to start over as a freshman because they wouldn’t transfer her credits. Samera dropped out again. After another six months, she enrolled in a third school that accepted her credits but was known for its low academic standards, violence and truancy. 

Samera is now a Fellow with Critical Exposure,which teaches youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change. Armed with her photos, Samera is fighting for more support for students attempting to re-enroll in high school. 

Excitingly, Samera is now on track to graduate. She plans to go to college to pursue a degree in photography. Through Critical Exposure, she’s become confident, engaged and - most importantly - empowered to create the change that she and her peers need to succeed.

The changes we’ve seen in Samera are remarkable, and her potential to improve her community is even greater. She is proof that students who drop out are not just statistics – they're artists, advocates, and leaders waiting to find their voices. 
Picture what youth could do with the opportunity to change the world around them.
Give them a camera and see what develops.

Our students were excited to hear that the DC State Board of Education (DCSBOE) proposed doubling the number of arts credits needed to graduate. They also noticed that the wording erased the distinction between visual and performing arts.Students feared that without this distinction, some schools might eliminate all visual or all performing arts classes to deal with budget cuts.

Last week, our students testified at the DCSBOE meeting to request that the new requirements maintain the increase in arts requirements, but also ensure that schools maintain both visual and performing arts. Support their campaign by signing the petition.


A Note from Our Students
"To show your support and to help out the youth, please sign the petition so that we can hold the SBOE members accountable."

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Organization Information

Critical Exposure

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.criticalexposure.org/​
Critical Exposure
Project Leader:
Adam Levner
Washington, D.C. United States

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