By Julisa Morales
Using photography as the medium, individuality, optimism, creativity, persistence and learning are the core values of Las Fotos Project (LFP).
Melinda Madrigal is a 12-year old, seventh grader, who chose to join LFP after learning about the experience she would gain, is in her second semester with LFP. She is grateful for the technical aspects of the photography process she has learned, including “how to Photoshop my pictures…and make them into a collage.”
However, one of the major lessons she learned last semester was the social issue that surrounds her community: “Bullying and how it can lead to suicidal thoughts.” For her exhibit, last semester, Melinda researched the triggers, methods and effects of bullying, including suicide and the effects suicide has on pets. “I learned that their pets may also die of depression because their owners committed suicide.”
Melinda credits the mentorship she receives at LFP as her motivation. In fact, Melinda says that her current mentor, Rosalyn Escobar, Arts Administrator with the LA Arts Commission, “is like a sister. She gives me ideas and pushes me to do better.” Rosalyn, who began volunteering with LFP this semester, explains “through looking at art together, we’re starting to understand each other’s personalities.” LFP is “a foundation for building a relationship—for building a bond…It’s so important to have the ability to not only do arts education as a young person but also to have the ability to form relationships with adults that can inspire them or can challenge them or help them develop into healthy human beings.”
Discussions about social issues begin early in the semester as the students narrow down their themes for the ESTA SOY YO Exhibit. Choosing a theme as a collective has “been an interesting way to dive into social issues because we’re going at it from a perspective of geographic space—where we are, where we consider our community. Is it a place, a neighborhood, a group of people?” The middle-school students workshop in Boyle Heights has collectively decided to focus on “community” as a theme for the Exhibit in May.
Rosalyn and Melinda describe their mentor-mentee relationship very positively. In fact, two weeks into the semester, Melinda asked Rosalyn if she would be returning next semester. Rosalyn confesses: “It’s a commitment. I’ve had such a great time so I would definitely continue coming.” And of course, Melinda is looking forward to having Rosalyn as her mentor again next semester. Despite having engaged in youth mentorship at other agencies before, LFP’s model has stood out for Rosalyn. “It’s very innovative and brings it to a community that doesn’t have this type of resource.”
Make sure to check out Melinda’s work titled “Echo Park is Home” at the ESTA SOY YO Exhibit on May 16th.
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