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Poverty, Race
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North America
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Syracuse, New York, Community
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The people of East Fayette Street in Syracuse, New York are working to bring about cultural understanding and striving to stop the cycle of violence and ignorance within their community.
Jamie Rose

2002 — student award of excellence

My project will continue the documentary photographic work I have begun in a three block area of East Fayette Street, a low socio-economic, inner city neighborhood, in Syracuse, New York. From the moment I moved to Syracuse, whenever I heard people speak of East Fayette Street and the housing projects therein, I heard horrible stories of guns, drugs and gang-related crimes in that neighborhood. Driving through the neighborhood past the small groups of loitering youths outside of the liquor store on the corner, I began to wonder. “who lives around here? What are the children like?” What goes on behind these closed doors?” In an endeavor to hone my skills as a community journalist, I began exploring and photographing East Fayette Street to see if I could discover the facts from urban legends.

Through my initial work on the East Fayette Street, I started to see a different community as the one described to me from ignorant, outside observers. While the drug dealing and gang activities are apparent. I have found a network of individuals who are working to better the community in which they live. Community service, active outreach and direct ministries abound on this street. However, the bad deeds of few make the front pages, while the hard work of many is overlooked. Through my initial work with the members of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, Ferguson’s Barber Shop and the Boys and Girls Club of America, I have discovered individuals who are deeply committed to their community and are striving to bring about understanding and progress in a depressed area that has been all but forgotten by the city.

As seen in my photo story, my primary photographic work has focused on Clarissa Hobbs, a 17-year-old Boys and Girls Club employee. While carrying the normal workload of a high school senior, Clarissa also works 35 hours a week at the Boys and Girls Club as their “Smart Girls” program coordinator. She has been shuffled through the foster care system since she was two years old has every reason to be a statistic. Yet, Clarissa actively choses to spend six days a week mentoring young girls in her community instead of leading a typical, carefree high school girl’s life. She is just one of many heroes on East Fayette Street working to make a difference.

The East Fayette Street Project has now expanded to nine different locations. Instead of tackling such a large project alone and risk doing the project injustice, I invited eight other photojournalism students from Syracuse University to help tell the story of the community outreach on east Fayette Street. As the project director, I have been able to act as a photo editor, event planner, location coordinator and mentor to my fellow students. We are collectively photographing two churches who run soup kitchens and after school tutoring, two exemplary 5th grade school children who live in the housing projects, a low cost community health care center, a grandmother who is raising four of her grandchildren, a barber who ministers to the families of the neighborhood, and, of course, Clarissa of the Boys and Girls Club.

I firmly believe our photographic work can help to destroy the myths surrounding East Fayette Street and bring to light the outreach and service of this close-knit, giving community. With the help of the Alexia Foundation, I can continue photographing Clarissa while also mentoring those students who are working equally as hard to make this project a reality.

In the State of the Union address, President Bush called to Americans to commit two years to the service of our neighbors and our nation, station “Our country also needs citizens working to rebuild our communities. We need mentors to love children.” Even before hearing this call to service, the people of East Fayette Street have already looked adversity in the eye and refused to allow their community to fall into ruin. The people of East Fayette Street are working to bring about cultural understanding and striving to stop the cycle of violence and ignorance within their community. I hope the Alexia Foundation will help me in my endeavor to reward these heroes and commend their service to others.

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Clarissa Hobbs, 18, hoists Reaquan Wilson, 7, over her shoulder and carries him from the all-girls room that she oversees. Reaquan had continued coming into the room to spend time with Clarissa and she had repeatedly told him there are "no boys allowed" in the Smart Girls room. Finally, she resorted to flipping him upside down and carrying him out. Reaquan laughs as she hauls him through the door. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
While talking photographs of her Smart Girls Club members Clarissa Hobbs (standing, right) leans to the right as Quanasia Hosea, 11, imitates her on the left. Clarissa runs the Smart Girls program for the Boys and Girls Club, which teaches the girls self-esteem, life skills and respect. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
As Clarissa Hobbs (center) tries to make her way to teach her step-dance team, Nearisa Dosier (left) and Tyesha Gregory, both 7, jump on her, wanting extra attention. With her dance routine in her mouth, Clarissa juggles both girls in her arms. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
Clarissa Hobbes, a youth volunteer and full-time high school student, works with the young girls at the after school program called Smart Girls, which helps young women be empowered and have a safe environment with positive role models, at the Boys and Girls Club in Syracuse, NY. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
Clarissa Hobbs (17, L) asks Najae Davis (6) how school was that day. When Najae told Clarissa she did not go to school, Clarissa asked, "Why not? You can't be skipping school!" Najae laughed and said she was sick. However, Clarissa jokingly but firmly told her how important school was and made her promise not to miss any more classes this year. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
Nottingham High School senior Clarissa Hobbs (17) of Syracuse works 35 hours a week at the Boys and Girls Club. However, she rarely takes time to be a typical teenager. In this brief display in adolescent indulgence, Clarissa takes a break from her job to answer a phone call from her boyfriend, Ed, at the front desk of the Club. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
During a meeting of Boys and Girls Club staff of all the Syracuse locations, Clarissa Hobbs (18) listens intently to the guest speaker on how to improve her Smart Girls Club program. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation
Step dance team members of the East Fayette Street Boys and Girls Club (left to right) Fantasia Melton (12), Quanasia Hosea (11) and Leanna Bullock (11) smile up at Clarissa Hobbs (foreground, 18) after they successfully complete their dance routine.  Clarissa holds practice three times a week for the girls and they perform with other local Boys and Girls Clubs in dance competitions. Jamie Rose/Alexia Foundation