YouthMAP Gala Showcases Semester of Photography and Community

Laura Dunnagan – On November 30, the Lilly Gallery sparkled with lights and excited young photographers as they featured their art at YouthMAP’s Biannual Gala.

Youth Marketing and Photography, known as “YouthMAP,” is a student-led organization founded at Davidson in 2013. YouthMAP’s mission is to build relationships, through photography, with children residing in the temporary facilities at Barium Springs Children’s Hope Alliance. Once a week, Davidson students travel to Barium Springs to teach a photography lesson and work with the residents.

“Photography is the main avenue we choose to get to know [the residents] and bond with them,” comments Severine Stier, Co-Director of YouthMAP. “Each week, we bring a new photography lesson—bird’s eye view, ant’s eye view, light painting—and we compile their best shots and create a Gala with the participants so they can present their work.”

While the activities are photography-based, mentor Erin Major ’19 says no photography experience is necessary. “YouthMAP is more about the joy of spreading creativity,” says Major.

Hannah Sommerlad ’19, a member of the YouthMAP Gala Committee, says the Gala is about more than the participants’ photographs. “It’s good for the kids to know that people support them and care about them,” says Sommerlad. “YouthMAP is a lot about the process, this Gala is just the final outcome.”

The Children’s Hope Alliance provides a safe home for children through group homes, therapeutic foster care, and adoption programs. Additionally, they work towards healing the hurt for individuals that are troubled, abused, or neglected, and provide health-based educational and developmental programs. The Children’s Hope Alliance is YouthMAP’s only partner, and between five and fifteen residents will participate in the program each semester.

One Barium Springs resident and YouthMAP participant says that the program helped her realize a new skill and encouraged her creativity. “YouthMAP sounded like a lot of fun—at first I wasn’t so sure about it because I hadn’t taken pictures before, but now I realize that I can actually do something with it,” she comments. “It’s really fun, and it’s very therapeutic. If you have a strong imagination, it’s good for that.”

Another YouthMAP participant says that the public Gala is a particularly fun way to showcase the work of the photographers. “It’s amazing. I love the look on people’s faces when they see a photograph they don’t understand but they think it looks awesome. I love seeing the reactions to the pictures,” comments the participant. The program also offered her a unique creative outlet. “There’s not much to do where I’m at right now, so this is something where you can go and have fun,” she says. “I want to be creative. I see people and think ‘you’re so inside the box—get out of it!’

Holly Querin ’17 has been a YouthMAP mentor since her sophomore year and has seen the program take shape. “When I got here, we were in a formative stage where everyone on the team agreed that it was a great idea but there was still a lot of logistical stuff to work out,” remarks Querin. “This semester, everything went so smoothly. It’s been fun to see the group grow and become more established.”

During her time with the program, Querin has seen the long-term benefits that YouthMAP can offer the participants and the mentors. “My favorite thing about YouthMAP is how affirmative it is for the participants,” says Querin. “A lot of them are so talented, and this is a skill that they might not have figured out if it weren’t for Youth- MAP. At the Gala, you can see the sense of pride they have of being able to show off their work.”

While YouthMAP benefits the residents at Barium Springs, it also benefits Davidson students themselves. “It’s definitely the thing I’m involved with on campus that gives me the most satisfaction,” says Querin. Co-Director Quinn Massengill ‘19 says for himself, YouthMAP meant establishing relationships with children he would not meet otherwise and allowed him to learn from those relationships. Stier, the second Co-Director, touted the merits of connecting with a community outside of Davidson. “It’s a great thing to combine philanthropy, service, and art all together and to burst the Davidson bubble,” comments Stier. “Being able to connect with people outside Davidson and learn about their stories and telling them yours is so rewarding.”

To learn more about YouthMAP, contact Stier or Massengill or visit youthmapnation.com.