October 19th, 2015

For Immediate Release

High School Students Share Struggles with Photographer

Brooklyn,NY- Poverty, homelessness, and working third shifts are now more a part of high school than yearbooks, proms, and Friday night football. This is what Brooklyn-based human rights photographer, Todd Drake, learned from his artist-in-residence project at the Early Middle College at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, North Carolina.

During two weeks of workshops where Drake taught students the details of taking professional- grade digital photos, the students taught Drake about their lives.

Steven shared with Drake that he lived on his own, worked a third shift warehouse job, and attended high school full-time.

Mary (not her real name) shared how a new step-mother saved her from thoughts of suicide and helped her escape from a depressing environment in another city.

Imani shard dreams of becoming an airline pilot. Coming from a background of poverty, her eyes filled with tears as she calculated exactly how much money she would need to be certified to fly.

And these were but a few of the stories.

This school was selected because of its unique support structure. "Our students are supported by our teachers, regardless of their background or issues. As both an Early and Middle College, we go the extra mile to help our students obtain their dreams. This project gives them important tools to share their own story. Being heard is being loved," Principal Loretta Rowland-Kitley says.

Students collaborated with Drake to create portraits that relate these stories and many more. Many students gave Drake their own handwritten notes or drawings to include in the photos.

The series of portraits is available online at

Supported by an Arts in Education grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, these photos, along with those taken earlier of mostly immigrant students at Northeast Guilford High School, will be included in a book made available to diversity trainers, administrators, and classroom teachers across the county. An earlier edition of the book has already been shared with over 300 new teachers and administrators in the Guilford County School System where these high schools are located.

“Students need to be heard. Their stories tell us how to reach them, how to help them succeed. The inspiration for this project comes from the fact that these students are graduating and going to college while living with hardships that I cannot imagine overcoming,” says Drake.

Human Rights photographer, Todd Drake, works with marginalized communities including undocumented immigrants and Muslim-Americans, creating educational exhibitions that tour nationally. His work has been exhibited in museums and colleges across the United States and overseas. He is a past Rockefeller Fellow from the UNC Center for Global Initiatives.


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