Class Assignment Results in Funding for Teen Project

Posted: June 25, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Some teenagers living in an Arlington housing complex are planning their first photography exhibit this month, thanks to the hard work of three students from Mason’s Department of Social Work.

Seniors Brittany Reid, Peace Asinugo, and Latoria Styles wrote a grant proposal for a photojournalism project for teens ages 11 to 18 living at the Gates of Ballston as a class assignment for a social work course.

The course, SOCW 483 Grant Writing and the World of Nonprofits, was taught by adjunct professor Ashley Brooks-Danso, co-director for the National Center for Gerontological Social Work Education, and the project was funded by the Arlington County Neighborhood Strategy Small Area Grants Program.

Reid shares credit for the idea with the Gates of Ballston on-site manager Christy Forster. Reid was working her senior internship in the Resident Services Division of AHC Inc., a private nonprofit that provides quality low-income housing in the Washington-Baltimore area. In her role there, Reid worked with the on-site staff at two housing communities, one being the Gates of Ballston, where she helped run the afterschool program for elementary-age children and the teen tutoring program.

“My supervisor had already expressed a need for me to write a grant along with my on-site manager,” says Reid. “Since I was taking the grant writing class, I asked if I could take on writing the grant with my group as a part of our class assignment. She was more than happy to let me take this back to my class group.”

Reid worked with classmates Asinugo and Styles to research costs and write the proposal. “For the project, we all took part in putting it together, such as coming up with the budget, writing the grant itself and researching information pertaining to the project,” says Styles. “[Since] one of our group members volunteered at the site, it was very easy for us to get the information needed.”

Beginning in March 2008, the photojournalism project aimed for the teens to learn basic photographic techniques and the components of digital photography over the course of several weeks. A number of workshops were planned for the participants, including one with a professional photojournalist.

The project culminates in June with a showcase event where teens will be able to display and share their work with family, friends and other members of the community. Digital cameras, memory cards and photo reproduction costs were all worked into the grant proposal.

The teenagers in the housing complex are predominately from non-English-speaking households, and most are ESL students. “One of the goals was to help the youth excel in their reading and communication skills,” says Asinugo. “We thought the project would provide the teens with an opportunity to improve their language and storytelling skills through the composition of essays to accompany their photos.”

Although Reid has not been by to see the teens at work, she is getting feedback on the project she helped plan. “The teens were thrilled to be able to use digital cameras and love taking the pictures,” says Reid. “They are really excited about the project and enjoy working on it. I am hoping that they will send me some of the pictures when they are done.”

Write to at