SPECIAL REPORT: Pictures of Hope

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East Lansing, Mich. (WILX) There are more than 2.5 million homeless children in our country living in a situation with little hope. A well-known photojournalist is focusing on those kids, by sharing her passion.

Linda Solomon has created a national program called "Pictures of Hope." It gives homeless kids and teens a chance to capture their hopes and dreams through the lens of their very own camera.
Thanks to sponsors like Kroger and Walgreens, each child receives a brand new digital camera.

Back in March, Solomon brought "Pictures of Hope" to a shelter for teens in Lansing, run by Gateway Youth Services division of Child and Family Charities.

16 year-old Andrea, had no idea how much a camera would change her life. "I never thought about like picking up a camera and like try to take pictures of my dreams. It's like, I feel like my dreams are invisible." Teens like Andrea come to the shelter, during some very tough times. Many feel invisible themselves. Solomon said "Pictures of Hope" is all about letting them know people care. "We hope that it makes them feel special. That's what this is all about. 'Pictures of Hope' is about making each, whether its a child or whether its a teen, feel special, realize that their dreams matter."

The program starts with a quick photography lesson. Then Solomon sends her students out on an assignment -- Expose your hopes and dreams, one frame at a time.

In this case, each teen was paired with a student from Michigan State University's Media Sandbox Street Team. They serve as a mentor to hold their hand along the way.

Erica Marra, MSU Journalism Sophomore, was paired with Andrea. "I learned that, honestly, no matter what may happen in life, no matter what struggles I may face, its so important to just stay strong and keep going, stay determined. Because once you can identify what you really want in life, there's nothing stopping you from going after it."

More than a month later, Solomon returns to Lansing and invites everyone back to unveil the "Pictures of Hope" exhibit. The artists, sign their photographs, and stand proud to expose themselves in a very personal way. Andrea explains why she chose to photograph a dried out long-stemmed red rose. "I like it because the rose is like dead, but its still put together. and its all about symbolism for me and I really like it because its really fragile but its beautiful." Ann Emmerich: "How does that work into a dream for you?" Andrea answers, "Because I feel like that's me. I'm broken but I'm beautiful."

For Andrea, "Pictures of Hope" is a new beginning. Proudly wearing her camera around her neck. It's now part of who she is, and what she strives to be.

Solomon says, "I think once you can see a dream after you photographed it, you work towards achieving it. Its right there in front of you. It's in your camera."

You can see the "Pictures of Hope" exhibit on the first floor at MSU's Communication Arts and Sciences Building. The program gives back to each shelter it visits, by putting together note cards paid for by sponsors.

To support Child and Family Services Gateway Youth Services division, click on the link included with this article.