30 images"Learning to See" is a collection of students' images and my environmental portraits created during Photo Club, a visual empowerment program I developed for elementary aged students at the Brashear Association's Allentown Learning and Engagement Center (ALEC). ALEC is located on Warrington Ave. in the South Pittsburgh neighborhood of Allentown. From 2011 to 2014, I was the Education Coordinator for the Brashear Association. I knew the students and their families, as well as the challenges they were facing in a low-income community. The students I worked with all attended Pittsburgh schools receiving school wide Title I funding. Generally communities that are low-income are often underserved, resulting in fewer opportunities for creative expression in particular. Many non-profits, such as the Brashear Association, focus on increasing access to quality education, food, employment and housing. Acting independently, I wanted to contribute to increasing the students' access to photography. So I pulled together camera donations and created a program to introduce students to photography, working with them to develop their tools and skills as the authors of their own visual stories. During Photo Club sessions, we walked through Allentown with our cameras, learning together to see our community in a new way. For those sessions, they were simply kids with cameras exploring Allentown, without any of the labels of "low income", "underserved" or "at-risk". Instead, they were "artists", "story-tellers" and "explorers". The language we use to describe our youth matters, and because I had been writing grants for many years that used some of those terms, I wanted to be more aware of what language I was using. I wanted the students to know that they were more than any label; that they had a story to tell; that their perspective of our community mattered. This collection of images represents what we learned together during that time and is inspired by many of the photo educators who have been working worldwide to provide a platform for youth to share their perspectives. More about ALEC : ALEC is the result of a community collaboration I facilitated while I was the Education Coordinator for the Brashear Association. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh established a temporary, pop-up location in Allentown that became a very popular spot for youth and families. Knowing that the neighborhood needed this resource, I worked with the library to create ALEC as a permanent community center that would be accessible all-year round and provide resources to the community. ALEC has grown into a maker space that provides food, fun and free after school services to South Pittsburgh youth and their families.