OUR YEAR TOGETHER
BRONX JUNIOR PHOTO LEAGUE | 2019-2020
The Bronx Junior Photo League started the fall strong with over 50 students in its 4 classes for 6th - 12th grade students. Students spent the fall semester learning how to use the camera (both analog and digital), composition, and how to create a photo essay. They explored our Melrose neighborhood, interviewing and photographing small businesses and local residents.
“FROM THE BRONX TO MAINE”
EXHIBITION + PANEL DISCUSSION
Photographs from the 20 BJPL students who have participated our annual Maine trips were exhibited in the BDC’s gallery as part of the “From the Bronx to Maine” exhibition, on view from October 11 - November 3, 2019. The work celebrated the past four years of the BDC’s week-long photography workshops in Maine. Since 2016, BDC staff have journeyed with Bronx teenagers to Portland, Union, Rockland and beyond, photographing Maine’s rocky coast, lobster pounds, lighthouses, parks, demolition derbies and the rugged Mainers they encountered along the way.
BJPL students Adanna Taylor, Bianca Colon and Lorena Vicente discussed their experiences in Maine with Karsten Moran, a regular contributor to The New York Times, and André Beganski, also of The New York Times, at a panel discussion held in conjuction with the show. The discussion was moderated by Mike Kamber, director of the BDC and a Maine native.
BJPL COLLEGE SUCCESS
BJPL College Success Counselor Rhynna M. Santos worked intensively with our BJPL 12th grade students this fall, meeting with them for weekly hour-long sessions to prepare them for their college applications. 12th grade students received additional support during BJPL Open Lab hours on Saturdays, where volunteers met with them on-one-one to assist with their essays, supplemental questions, and review their applications.
In addition to this, we held:
• FAFSA workshop for 12th graders and parents with a representative from the Higher Education Services Corporation.
• 9th-12th grade students and parents attended an informal brunch; they were able to address their questions and concerns about college with our BJPL College Success Counselor over waffles, eggs and coffee.
• We held a practice SAT exam for 9th-12th grade students.
• 12th grade students attended an essay workshop with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barry Bearak.
All 8 graduates of the Bronx Junior Photo League’s 2019 class matriculated to universities this Fall, starting their freshman years at Cornell University, Fordham University, SUNY New Paltz, Queens College, The New School, Niagara County Community College, and others.
BJPL SPEAKERS AT COMMUNITY SAFETY RALLY
In collaboration with community partners, the BDC held a community safety rally on Wednesday, December 11th in response to a November shooting that injured 5 people, including children, demanding that Courtlandt Avenue be a safe passage for the thousands of students that walk through daily. Our BJPL students helped lead the large rally, spreading the word, making signs, and even were featured speakers at the rally. Some students are now planning to focus on documentary projects examining the roots of such violence in our communities.
All students presented their work from the fall semester to family and friends at their mid-year presentations in December. The two middle school classes collaborated on a zine about the neighborhood, beginner high school students explored their identity through personal photo essay projects, and the advanced high school students photographed the changing South Bronx.
BRONX JUNIOR PHOTO LEAGUE SPRING SEMESTER BEGINS
After several weeks of a break for the holidays, the BJPL started back at the end of January with a student-parent orientation. During February and the first part of March, students in our high school-level Digital Intro to Documentary Storytelling class worked on a community newspaper, interviewing local artists, covering events, and profiling Melrose businesses. Students in the high school Analog Advanced Documentary Storytelling class learned how to make prints in the darkroom and continued to photograph their long-term projects, focusing on themes like undocumented families, gentrification in Melrose, air pollution, and more. The middle school classes focused on exploring their identity through self-portraiture and still lives, and started to make connections between their personal history and interests and social justice issues in our South Bronx community.
BJPL COLLEGE SUCCESS | NYC COLLEGE TOURS
The BJPL college success work started before the semester began, with a student-alumni mixer on January 11th. In February, we held an SAT practice test and took students on New York City college tours, visiting four schools with 7th-12th grade students, their family, and friends. This year, with a critical mass of BJPL alumni already in college, we had the wonderful experience of having BJPL alumni host the majority of our college visits. We finished out the week with a workshop for our juniors, where they began their official college list.
At New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, BJPL alumna Julie Lozano gave us a tour of the film department (where she is a second-year student), and gave students advice on the college admissions and decision process.
2020 SCHOLASTIC ART & WRITING AWARDS
In February, it was announced that 10 BJPL students received regional recognition from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards--including 4 gold keys, the highest regional honor--and in March, Lorena received a National Gold Medal, the highest achievement possible, for a photo she created in our program. While celebrations and exhibitions were canceled in response to the pandemic, Fanta was featured as a student speaker in their virtual ceremony.
© Lorena Vicente, 12th Grade
National Gold Medal and American Visions Medal, Photography
Gold Key-winning students: Elisa Luna Cameron, Awa Fofana, Fritzi Garcia, and Lorena Vicente have their work featured online
Silver Key-winning students: Anastasia Cardona, Fanta Diop, and Gianni Zambrano
Honorable Mention-winning students: Lucki Islam, Tianna Maldonado, and Adanna Taylor
Although this year’s events had to be cancelled, you can now view a virtual exhibition and ceremony, where our own Fanta Diop was the Youth Spotlight Speaker. And our BJPL teachers also had some very, well, special ways of sharing how proud they are.
BJPL GOES VIRTUAL
On March 12th, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the BDC made the decision to suspend all programs and move to remote learning; on March 16th, all BJPL teaching staff met via video chat to create a plan on how to move forward with documentary photography and online learning. We adjusted our curriculum to a 10-week-long phone photography session, building on the compositional, technical and storytelling skills our students have been learning since October.
We made sure that our students had the tools they needed to be successful not only in our BJPL program, but with their overall education, delivering BDC laptops by car and bicycle. And to help build a stronger support network for our students, all of our current BJPL students were paired with teaching staff for weekly (if not more often) check-ins and mentorship. The BDC also began an emergency support program, surveying all the families that are a part of our BDC community, and have been working with staff and volunteers to deliver free groceries and disinfectant supplies to families.
"My fight is drawing. I like to show my emotions through drawing and sometimes I use it to show what I want for people in the future."
"Even though I am home my fight is to get better and also reflect on the violence that led people to protest. This leads me to watch news and also hear what people are doing to protest with BLM."
"My fight is to get a good education. This is so I can become successful in the near future and hopefully inspire others for their hopes and dreams."
"My fight is so that people can love whoever they love. If their families kick them out or harass them, in any way, they will always have a safe place to go to."
BJPL COLLEGE SUCCESS GOES VIRTUAL + BJPL STUDENTS COMMIT TO COLLEGES
Our BJPL college success work make the transition to virtual as well. Our college counselor, Rhynna M. Santos, had biweekly counseling sessions with 12th grade students, and monthly sessions with 11th grade students. Our How to Read Your Financial Aid Letter workshop, usually presented by a member of the Higher Education Services Corporation, was a video presentation and chat held by our College Counselor and Education Manager with students and their parents. Our 3rd Annual Upstate College Trip, planned for spring break, instead became a 3-day Virtual Junior Retreat. Professors and BJPL staff and alumni “visited” our sessions to give us virtual campus tours and hold Q&A for Duke University, Cornell University, Syracuse University, and SUNY New Paltz.
We are so proud of our BJPL 12th grade students:
- Ana Carmona - Cornell University
- Awa Fofana - City College
- Fanny Aucacama - Borough of Manhattan Community College
- Fritzi Garcia - City College
- Gianni Zambrano - Baruch College
- Lorena Vicente - NYU Tisch School of the Arts
- Tianna Maldonado - The Cooper Union
- Pamela Rozon - Hunter College
- Liah Thompson- SUNY Oswego
- Bianca Colon - Syracuse University
12th grade student Ana Carmona was featured in the BBC News, where she shared her photography, her experiences during the pandemic, and her college decision.
BJPL Year-End Presentations
BJPL presented their final projects, created during their time in quarantine, during live streamed presentations on June 17th and 18th. Viewers from around the world tuned in.