BY TOM LAVIS
Goodwill GoodGuides has partnered with the Greater Johnstown Camera Club to provide youngsters a creative outlet to make positive choices in their lives.
To celebrate the collaboration and the participants’ hard work, a photo exhibition titled “Through My Eyes” is on display at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd. in Westmont.
Goodwill GoodGuides is a mentoring program with a career focus, administrated by Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley.
Work that has been collected from photos taken over the past year is on display in the Goldhaber-Fend Fine Arts Gallery through March 31.
An opening reception will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the arts center.
“We hope to share what our youth are seeing,” said Cindy O’Connor, GoodGuides program manager.
“This exhibit is our first time, and we believe it’s a great start of knowing where we are as a community and how far we need to go.”
Approximately 25 youth from area schools ranging in age from 12 to 20 were involved.
“The opening reception is a gathering to encourage the youth who participated to be there as well as their families, Goodwill representatives and Greater Johnstown Camera Club members to answer any questions,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor described the students’ more than 100 photographs as moving and powerful.
“Through a photograph, it is possible to share something that words cannot,” she said.
“They are pretty awesome.”
GoodGuides youth and outreach mentoring helps students find their voice, identity, creativity, and gain new confidence in their worth and abilities.
The initial round of photos were taken with disposable cameras donated by Beginnings Inc.
“The Greater Johnstown Camera Club took the responsibility of getting them developed and printed,” O’Connor said.
“We have since purchased professional cameras for the program.”
The photos are examples of how the youngsters saw their city in downtown Johnstown. They were guest photographers for the 10,000 Maniacs concert in June and at Johnstown’s annual Halloween Parade in October.
Additionally, students from ACRP/St. Michael’s School and Greater Johnstown Alternative Learning Center participated in outreach mentoring sessions with the GoodGuides program and took photos within their schools.
Members of the Greater Johnstown Camera Club offered their expertise in showing youth how to use a camera, learn new techniques, and pique youth’s interest in possible career choices.
Bill Davis of Richland Township, past club president, is one of five club members serving as mentors to the youngsters.
“About 18 months ago, money was donated to buy cameras for the student program,” Davis said.
“Goodwill now has five digital single-lens reflex cameras and 12 point-and-shoot digital cameras.”
The club members and mentors meet once a month at Grove Avenue United Methodist Church in Moxham to discuss photography. The youngsters learn different techniques such as focus, depth of field, angles, flash, zoom, and much more with an actual camera in their hands.
“I believe photography will open a lot of doors for the youngsters,” Davis said.
“When kids get interested in something and develop a passion, they pursue it aggressively and it opens their minds to so many possibilities.”
He has seen students develop a sense of purpose and a feeling of accomplishment when they can see something they have created.
“At this age, they have gone beyond what most people expected from them,” Davis said.
“They were looking for an outlet to occupy their lives, but it could lead to a pursuit of a life’s work or a continuation of a great hobby.”
Davis said the exhibition is not a competition and no awards will be presented.
“By making it competitive, it would have made the effort counterproductive,” he said.
Davis, who grew up in Moxham and faced some difficult times as a youth, said he can associate with what the kids are experiencing.,
“I have a fairly good handle on the way they think,” he said.
O’Connor applauds the mentors for their dedication in introducing and teaching the youngsters photography.
“Because of the different levels and interests of the members of the Greater Johnstown Camera Club, they offer a variety of expertise,” she said.
GoodGuides other projects include Fashion Club and a blossoming Garden Club.
“We also are exploring other groups as interest grows,” O’Connor said.
Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.
What: “Through My Eyes.”
When: Through March 31.
Where: Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd., Westmont.
Opening reception: 6 p.m. Tuesday.