Written by Caitlin Mulkeen
Alicia Hansen pays the bills as a professional photographer, but her real passion is for the job that allows her to use her professional skills to virtually change some New York inner-city childrenâs lives. Â Hansenâs nonprofit, NYC SALT, teaches children the art of photography, ranging from the basics to photo editing and digital printing.Â The goal is to initiate a passion for the art form to get kids behind cameras and off the streets. Beyond an education in photography, NYC SALT also equips the students with skills that better enable them to get into colleges and universities.
After watching âBorn in the Brothel,â a film about a photographer who changed the lives of many Indian children through a photography class in the brothels of India, Hansen felt there was a similar need in New York City.. With a friend, they taught a pilot class and wrote a business plan to make NYC SALT a real, stable program.
The program is free for disadvantaged students who are eligible for free lunch. Hansen says their program fulfills a desperate need for these kids: âThese are kids in the city who couldnât afford to go to any extra-curricular activities after school,â she says. âWe are providing something that the public schools are not providing for the kids.â
Hansen came up with the name SALT with the ideas of flavor and preservation, both forÂ which the mineral salt is used. âWe want to flavor their lives, preserve them, give them a future and inspire them towards a college education, a clear path different from what they may have chosen,â she says,
While the photography component of the program is central, Hansen says that the college-preparation principle is just as important.Â She and her team help the students develop portfolios for their college applications. Hansen is proud that seven of her high school graduates this year will advance to college in the fall, and all seven are the first in their families to seek higher education. Seven NYC SALT graduates from last year have also gone on to attend college and universities. Hansen says none of the graduates would have ever been introduced to these creative fields without the program. âOne of our kids said that he thought that âwork meant getting your hands dirtyâ and never realized that a fashion designer could be a legitimate career,â she says. âNow, heâs studying to be a fashion designer and got a $10,000 scholarship.â Â Hansen says the program has opened doors that otherwise would have never been opened.
Each year, Hansen and her NYC SALT students look forward to their Gallery Show. The event is a celebration for the high school graduates to display their workÂ from the year. âIt started as a way to build confidence for the kids,â says Hansen. âWe see what happens when a kid sees his picture is on the wall and that someone wants to buy it; [he] feels a sense of self-worth.â
Besides building confidence, the Gallery Show helps the children hone their public speaking skills and offers lessons in hospitality. They are taught to host the event and understand that it is their job to make their guests feel comfortable. Hansen feels confident these are certainly skills that the students will utilize for the rest of their lives.
While leading NYC SALT is a an accomplishment in itself, Hansen says she is most proud that her graduates of her program go on to college, choose a career goal, and do well for themselves. âOne principal of a participating school said that 95 percent of the kids in their public schools will make it to college, but only 35 percent will finish their first year,â she says. âWeâve already beat those odds in the first year. 100% of our kids are going to college and going back next year.â
NYC SALT also has a mentor system that ensures the kids continue to have their needs met after they graduate high school and continue on to college. They provide textbook money, housing deposits, and care packages to those away at school. Hansen says, âWeâre committed to being more than just an after-school program,â she says.Â âWe are a resource to help our students become something.â
DoGooder Twitter Updates
Share the DoGooder with your Friends