Photographer’s Day Off: A Glimpse at YPT’s Help the Homeless Project

This past Thursday was a rare treat for me. I attended one of YPT’s workshops at Martha’s Table as part of our partnership with Fannie Mae and their Help the Homeless program. This was one of a series of workshops that will help create an original play about homelessness in the Washington area.

This was the first time I was in a classroom with YPT where I was just an observer. I have been in the classroom to take photographs and on those occasions it was my responsibility to capture the enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity of the students. It is a joy to feel the energy in a room full of young people eager to learn.

The experience changes for me, however, when I am not looking at it all through a viewfinder. I can focus on listening, not just looking, and isn’t that what YPT is about? These young people have things to say and we want to show them that they are being heard.

Program Manager Nicole Jost explained to the students why they were there and that their words would be used to create a play for the Express Tour. They were asked to express their opinions on homelessness and report on the opinions of others. The students touched on stereotypes, lack of control (of both homeless individuals and those wishing to help) and compassion and respect for all humans, among other topics.

I could see the gears turning as they spoke. They were forming their opinions with every word. “I didn’t know my answer but now I know I’m not sure,” said one student about whether or not homelessness is a solvable issue. She recognized that all of the opinions in the room were valid and so was her own, especially on such a complex issue. The questions were open-ended and the students took them in many directions, appreciative of this opportunity to be consulted on an issue they are not often asked about.

I saw the students in the room change their demeanor in surprising ways as the workshop went on. One was quickly labeled the “jokester” of the group but raised his hand and was willing to offer insights when questions were posed. Another looked less than thrilled when asked to write but ended up writing the most of anyone in the room and working silently and diligently until he was finished.

“Can we see the play?” one student asked after Nicole had explained the goal of the workshop. I hope I see them at the Express Tour!

Communications and Graphic Design Assistant

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