1994 — student award of excellence
Kim Ritzenthaler has been a professional photographer for more than fifteen years. Her clients have included People magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post and a wide array of industrial, educational and corporate publications.
She worked as a daily newspaper photographer for the Dallas Morning News from 1993-2004. Her work for the newspaper earned her awards from the Texas Headliners Foundation, the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Association for Women Journalists.
Many also know Kim worldwide as an accomplished nature photographer whose specialty is finding the extraordinary details of the natural world in urban environments. She has a BA in photography from Texas A&M in Commerce.
Kim also works with her husband, David Leeson, in documentary filmmaking. They live in Dallas with their two children, Gabriel Sky and Quinn Rain.
In America today, the young are not innocent. Crime, and particularly crimes committed by young people, has become a social problem of gigantic proportions. The number of arrests for violent crimes by youths under 18 is rising sharply, and nearly doubled between 1970 and 1992.
Why are these kids so bad? From birth, their character is formed in response to the thing they learn from their environment and from what is modeled for them by others. The quality of family life and role models in a young person’s life are two of the chief influencing factors in how a young person learns to act in response to the values and ideas that he is bombarded with on a daily basis.
Americans are angry about crime and want to see the criminals locked up. They have less interest in reforming those criminals although no young person is beyond rehabilitation if he has the will to change.
Jeremy Busby is one such young person who had the will to change.
Jeremy was born in Dallas, and at age 2 his parents divorced. He and his twin brother, Jeremiah, stayed with their mother until she was kidnapped when Jeremy was 4. Jeremy went to live with his aunt and her husband in Oak Cliff, and area of Dallas with reputation for crime and gang activity. His aunt’s husband was a “big-time dope dealer,” and her two sons were also involved in drugs. At age 13, with connections he made through his cousins, Jeremy began selling marijuana. He then moved to live with another aunt, Mary, in rural Wills Point, Texas. Still maintaining his drug dealing in Dallas, Jeremy rode back and forth from Wills Point, staying with friends in Dallas for three or four days at a time. He got his first car at age 14.
When Aunt Mary moved to Athens, Texas, Jeremy went to live on his own. He became involved in a gang and participated in robberies to collect money, guns, and dope. “We woke up smoking weed and went to sleep smoking weed.”
Jeremy says the reason he got involved in a gang is because he “just wanted to have money. My biggest problem is that I liked the name brand stuff and that’s the only way I knew to get it. I was too young to work. We were more a money-making gang than the type that do drive-bys on people. We didn’t shoot at nobody unless they shot at us first.”
He says that gangs can provide what parents often don’t - love and togetherness.
One particular Friday night, Jeremy and his gang buddies located a Texas A&M fraternity party at a country club on the outskirts of College Station, Texas. They followed the drunk fraternity boys home one by one as they left the party, and robbed them of money, jewelry and credit cards. The next evening, they robbed an undercover police officer, and soon afterward, their crime spree was reported on Crime Stoppers. They had committed the robberies in a rented Blazer, and Jeremy's aunt said to him, "I don't know what you done did in that Blazer, but it's all on the news and Crime Stoppers and everything.
Ya'll better get outta here real quick."
Jeremy was arrested on eight counts of aggravated robbery. He beat two of them in court, and plead guilty on one. He was sent to a Texas Youth Commission detention center in Brownwood, Texas, where he spent two weeks before being transferred to DayTop, a drug rehabilitation program, for six months. It was at DayTop, a strict and highly confrontational program, that Jeremy says his life was turned around.
The turning point came after Jeremy snuck his girlfriend in for a visit, saying she was his sister. He said he became so eaten up with guilt that he turned himself in. Randolph, a staff member with whom Jeremy had formed a bond, confronted him and said, as Jeremy recalls, "It's up to you if you wanna make a change or if you wanna go out and do the same stuff you been doin'. If you wanna make a change now you ain't gotta be sneakin' your girlfriend into places like this talkin' 'bout she's your sister or you're gonna be doin' it for the rest of your life."
"And so," he says, "I started takin' a look at it and then finally I said that I'm gonna change and I'm gonna be one of the positive persons in the house. I started changing rapidly."
Jeremy was transferred to Cottrell House, a halfway house in Dallas, for five months before being released. He returned to live with Aunt Mary, who now lives in Kaufman, Texas, about 45 miles from Dallas. He got a job working at McDonald's and intends to register for college classes soon.
A year since his release, Jeremy has stayed out of trouble. Staff from the Texas Youth Commission have asked him to speak before other young people about his experiences and getting his life on the right track. He intends to stay clean and make a success of himself.
He's come a long way, because he had the will to change.