Helping create a generation with a college future, the 21st Century After-School Program allows members of Amarillo College clubs to interact with children from San Jacinto Elementary and Whittier Elementary schools. The program started with the adoption of San Jacinto Elementary School in 2011, when Dr. Paul Matney was AC president.
“Dr. Matney wanted to adopt a classroom at San Jacinto,” said René West, an assistant professor of photography. “All of the classrooms were taken, so we adopted the whole school.”
The Camera Clubhouse, a creation of the AC Photo Club, is an after-school program for San Jacinto Elementary students. AC photography students meet with the elementary students twice a month. The children learn about the fundamentals of photography, which include basic camera operation, composition and various styles of photography.
“Only the best (AC) students are accepted into the Camera Clubhouse program,” said AC Photo Club President Eric Van Marter.
“They cannot have any demerits, cannot have been suspended and must keep a good GPA.”
Other clubs and student organizations, such as Phi Theta Kappa and the Biology Club, also have led after-school sessions with children in the program.
Last semester, members of Student Media helped the San Jacinto students film and create a video about their school.
The opportunity to interact with college students serves to reinforce the No Excuses University philosophy adopted by the elementary school.
The interactions are different from those they have with their teachers and students their own age.
“It gives us a chance to develop a relationship of ‘big brother/sister’ to these children,” Van Marter said.
“It also gives us the chance to reinforce what we have learned in our photography classes when we have to teach it to fourth and fifth graders and make it so they understand the techniques without making them too technical.”
Projects are displayed in various ways. The video created last semester was shared on the Ranger website, acranger.com.
Photographs taken by the children have been displayed locally at Process Art House and Southern Light Gallery, and Panhandle PBS featured the project in an episode of the television program, ArtZone.
Members of some clubs conduct fundraisers throughout the year to fund the projects.
“The Photo Club raised money last year to buy each child a camera,” said Tasha Thorn, a photography major and Photo Club vice president.
“The club keeps the cameras on campus and takes them to the school with us each visit.”
AC students also benefit from the project in numerous ways, including honing their photographic skills and gaining confidence in their knowledge of the medium.
“The kids enjoy this, and we enjoy the kids,” Thorn said.