A nonprofit organization called "Hire Her" is giving a group of five girls the opportunity to take their photography skills to the next level.
"The photography industry is dominated by males," Valerie Esquivel, the program's manager, says. "And so, for us, it's really important that we create a space for girls, particularly girls of color."
Spawning out of the "Las Fotos Project," "Hire Her" teaches the select chosen few how to turn their creativity into cash opportunity. Five girls applied and earned the opportunity to become the first class of the "Hire Her" program.
The girls were hand-picked, mentored and taught how to point, focus and shoot.
"It's a program where we focus on the business and technology side," Fabiola Lopez, who is one of the five girls, says.
Lopez adds, "Out in the real world, people are like, 'You're qualified for this job? Prove it to me.' I can be like, 'Look, I have this portfolio; I have a website; I've been doing this for years.'"
Building a portfolio, setting up a professional website, collaborating with team members, problem solving and dealing with clients are all part of the learning experience in the program. In addition, the girls get the opportunity to work paid professional jobs with a mentor, which provides invaluable experience for the bright-eyed teenagers.
"You would have to try not to grow here because there is so much opportunity for it," says Linnea Stephan, a teaching assistant.
Noting the growth in her students, a teacher can't help but be proud.
Esquivel says, "Sometimes, I get emotional because it's nice to see where they started and where they're at now."
Suffice to say, this is truly a program that has "clicked" with these girls.
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"I think it comes from exposure and when you're given opportunities you obviously develop more as a person," Lopez says about her personal growth and the growth of her classmates.
Next semester, there will be even more girls and even more tools to help them grow.
NBC Universal Foundation and NBC4 launched something called "Project Innovation" that distributed $225,000 among six local non-profits. The "Hire Her" program is one of the recipients. The program partners girls that love photography with professional mentors who teach them how to turn their creativity into money.
Due to the "Project Innovation" grant, the "Hire Her" program will expand from five girls to 15 girls and get new equipment like cameras, lenses and light kits.
To learn more about the "Hire Her" program, visit their website.