Being behind the lens of a camera we are forced to notice details often taken for granted. When I review my shots, I notice another smile, laugh and even expressions of hope and understanding that may have disappeared from memory without the luxury of a camera.
This summer, I had the opportunity to be part of Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood, though not as counselor or a student, but as a college intern to document the initiative’s Camp Promise, a summer bridge program for incoming fourth, fifth and sixth graders from Castle Park Elementary School. For the past two weeks I have captured activities and field trips, an experience that has not only sharpened my skills, but also made realize the impact of encouragement and community support.
The students didn’t really know how to take me at first and shied away, but I quickly became known as the paparazzi man. Through my lens, I captured the unfiltered impact the counselors had on the students and everyone around. The relationship between the counselors and the students reminded me of an older brother or sister tutoring their younger sibling. Along with teaching students material like math and science, a jumpstart for next school year, the counselors also provided leadership activities such as teaching them presentation skills and even marketing techniques for an invention created during one of their hands on activities.
We took our first field trip to the Living Coast Discovery Center. It was a first visit for most students and a first for me too. We walked through the trails on the shore of the San Diego Bay and learned about animals native to the watershed. I followed the students capturing the smiles as they experienced sharks close up and touched the manta rays. They were glued to the tanks as if by staring long enough at the jellyfish and seahorses they could somehow get on the other side of the glass. I have no doubt we may have encouraged a future marine biologist or two.
Lunch rolled around and I felt like the new kid at school as I searched for a table, all of them filled with students with their favorite counselors. I was welcomed to sit with a group and among our crackers and juice boxes we struck up a conversation. From then on my relationship with the students went from paparazzi man to Mr. Adrian, a college student.
I was bombarded with questions about college life and classes. They were amazed at the fact that they could choose to study whatever they wanted in college. Yes, even marine life. Seeing their faces filled with excitement was priceless. While we all may know it, it was an impactful realization for me to see how potent encouragement, hope and conversation can be.
From my lens, I don’t see kids from a struggling neighborhood, I see future college graduates with bright futures. I see how this initiative, its partners and our community provides students and their families confidence to face whatever will come along and succeed.
Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood (CVPromise) is coordinated by South Bay Community Services and is proud to partner with Castle Park Elementary, Castle Park Middle, Castle Park High School, Hilltop Middle and Hilltop High School to bring new opportunities and pathways of success for their students and families.
Orozco is a Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood intern, UCSD student and Chula Vista resident.