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Straight Shooting Program Takes Aim at PCC

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At-risk youth sporting cameras will converge on Portland Community College and surrounding cities from April 1 through June 10 to show what the world looks like through their lenses.

PORTLAND – The Straight Shooting Youth Photo Project will introduce at-risk youth to a positive form of expression – and maybe a new career path – by pairing teens from eight Oregon counties with professional photographers during an 11-week mentoring program.

The youths, ages 15-19, are nominated by schools, non-profit service agencies, juvenile departments, juvenile justice programs and other organizations. This year, 36 students are paired one-on-one with mentors, who donate their time and expertise to the program.

Straight Shooting, currently in its sixth year, is sponsored by the Oregon Commission on Children and Families (OCCF) and the Oregon Council for Hispanic Advancement (OCHA), with help from Portland Community College and numerous local businesses and organizations.

PCC donated the use of the PCC Sylvania photo lab for the students and will provide the instructor for the program, well-known Portland art photographer Mark Barnes.

Students at risk or affected by gang involvement, school problems or negative encounters with the juvenile justice system will receive a camera to use during the program and a personal mentor before taking to the big outdoors. The bulk of the program is funded from cash donations from businesses and corporations and in-kind donations of materials and services.

Selected works of the students will be on exhibit in July in a gallery or art-friendly location in the metro area. The photos will also be shown at the State Capital in Salem in March of 1999.

Jeff Nunn, a project coordinator for the Oregon Commission on Children and Families, said the program in the last five years has helped turn troubled teens into ones with hope and promise. "Just the experience with the program and with an adult mentor has increased self-esteem and really turned some kids around," Nunn said. "It has even turned some kids toward a career."

Some of those successes include a Straight Shooting alumni creating a documentary for OPB, "Moving Targets," which won a N.W. Emmy, and a Straight Shooting youth shooting a cover for the former Downtowner.

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