Parks in Focus hosts afterschool initiative in Michigan with TrueNorth Community Services

Parks in Focus participants from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Newaygo County (a TrueNorth program) reunited in March for a winter ‘alumni’ outing.

Next week, the Udall Foundation and TrueNorth Community Services will team up to pilot a set of two, weeklong afterschool Parks in Focus initiatives to introduce approximately 40 White Cloud middle school students to digital nature photography.

Using the natural areas near schools grounds as an outdoor classroom and as a source of artistic inspiration, the youth – all participants in TrueNorth’s Project FOCUS program – will learn basic photography functions and concepts such as composition, perspective and lighting. Each of the afterschool initiatives (held April 22-25 and April 29 – May 2, respectively) will also provide the participants with an opportunity to meet with a professional photographer and to reflect upon their experiences through writing.

Since 2007, TrueNorth’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program has partnered with the Udall Foundation on small-scale Parks in Focus efforts that take approximately 10 to 12 Newaygo County youth to explore scenic places like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Seney National Wildlife Refuge each summer (see our 2012 report here). The success of these efforts has led the two organizations to explore opportunities to host additional programming throughout the year, team up with other TrueNorth youth programs and, ultimately, reach more Newaygo County youth.

“TrueNorth’s partnership with the Udall Foundation on Parks in Focus has provided incredible opportunities for Big Brothers Big Sisters youth to use photography to express themselves creatively, increase their self esteem and connect with the natural world,” said Lisa Schillaci, program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Newaygo County. “We look forward to continuing and expanding this partnership to involve youth from Project FOCUS and our other TrueNorth programs.”

Photo highlights from the afterschool Parks in Focus initiatives will be selected, printed and displayed at the TrueNorth Community Services building in Fremont in September.

This initiative is being supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Minigrant Program administered by LowellArts!

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