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Hopes of Tucson children revealed in photo project

Hopes of Tucson children revealed in photo project

Eighth-grader Christian Baldonado, who plays violin, cello and guitar, hopes to one day change the world through the arts.

“I like playing music and drawing, and I like science and stuff,” said the 12-year-old, who also said he is interested in economics and the roles those issues play in making the world a better place. “I think it’s bad for people to live through poverty and to struggle; I don’t want anybody to struggle so they can be prosperous and do whatever they want when they’re older.”

Christian is one of 15 children selected to participate in the Pictures of Hope project, started by Tucson photojournalist Linda Solomon as a way to empower children and teach them to express their emotions through photography.

The participants range in age from 7 to 12 and are part of housing programs offered by New Beginnings, the homeless-services division of Our Family Services.

Christian’s photo, a snapshot of a University of Arizona sculpture, and other images illustrating the hopes of the 14 other children were turned into greeting cards and unveiled at an event at O’Rielly Chevrolet Monday afternoon.

Leiliani Martinez’s photo of $20 bills illustrated the now 12-year-old’s dream for the homeless to have food and homes.

Tyler Blacheos, 11, took a photo of a UA sign to show his dream of continuing to make his mom proud. Other children expressed their hopes of curing cancer, going to college, making a snowman and riding a horse.

Proceeds from sales of the greeting cards benefit Our Family Services, but the project is more about creating awareness, said Patti Caldwell, the organization’s executive director.

“It’s really mostly about bringing to the public’s attention the fact that everybody’s got hopes and dreams, and it’s really important to make sure children have a chance to really express them,” Caldwell said.

The Pictures of Hope project started in 2006 and is offered in 13 cities each year. Tucson is the only city that has been chosen to participate for three years in a row.

“I’m always impressed that there are at least a few children every time whose hopes and dreams are really focused on how they can make the world a better place,” Caldwell said. “Sometimes it’s related to something that’s impacted them personally, but again it’s just so altruistic, and it’s a very special thing to see that happen.”

The children are given a lesson in photography technique by Solomon, an award-winning photographer, and are asked to write down a list of their hopes and dreams. The kids are then paired with a mentor who helps them with a visual representation of their hopes.

For the second year in a row, Mayor Jonathan

Rothschild has mentored Christian through the process. He took him to the UA, where they looked at public art and sneaked into a classroom at the School of Music.

“You get young people who want to do well and give them an opportunity to see things and meet people that they might otherwise not, expand their dreams, let them know that their dreams can come true and it’s a lot of fun,” Rothschild said.

Christian thought it was pretty cool learning about politics, economics and being mayor from Rothschild.

Each of the children received his or her own digital camera and digital photo frame, donated by O’Rielly Chevrolet to encourage them to continue honing their photography skills.

“When we first started a couple years ago, the kids got disposable cameras so they took 26 shots and they got all this instruction on photography and then that was it,” said Rob Draper, president of O’Rielly Chevrolet. “So two years ago, we gave them a digital camera with the idea that having put all that into it, let’s give them the tools to keep going.”

Christian was thrilled at the thought of many people seeing and sharing his greeting card.

“It’s exciting because photography is an art form and people get to see my work and they might get inspired,” he said.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

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