Sunnyside High School photography students are in the process of pasting nearly one hundred poster-sized photos of smiling teenagers on a Fresno Unified building downtown.
The building is the Department of Prevention and Intervention. Families with school-age kids come here when they’re in crisis.
“Either due to discipline problems, attendance, we oversee services for foster and homeless youth, some teacher training, mentoring, social work for the district,” says Executive Director Ambra Dorsey.
The photos, she says, are of students in a leadership program run by the department. Dorsey had seen the huge murals Sunnyside photography students created on their own campus and she thought it would be a great idea to have a similar mural on a Fresno Unified building.
“I loved that we would be able to highlight the energy from our kids in our district and our building is pretty much a blank slate,” she says. “I mean we’re right down here in the heart of downtown. There’s not a lot of bright, not a lot of positive.”
Enrique Villanueva, who just graduated from Sunnyside, was one of the students in teacher Tamela Ryatt’s photography class this year. He and his peers took the photos at the end of the semester. The students are making funny faces or just smiling.
“They also have what we call I AM messages where they hold up a sign saying I AM and underneath is a positive word. I am trustworthy, I am amazing, a natural, you know, stuff like that,” he says.
Villanueva says anybody downtown just driving by can come and see their work. “We’re really proud of it because it’s just putting smiles on people’s faces,” he says. “And it’s a great opportunity to work with my friends.”