Resiliency – Kids In Focus Project

One thing we strive for in our Photo Weekends program is to invite camera clubs, meetup groups, our educational partners and other organizations to have a presence at each event. The increased buzz created by having more select photo-related groups join us makes for a better event all the way around.

In the run up to our recent Photo Weekend in Tempe, Arizona I came across a super cool organization that is doing great work using photography to help kids – Kids In Focus. I contacted the founder, Karen Shell to see if her Phoenix-based group would like to attend our event. In the process, I got to talking with Karen about what her organization does. By the end of the conversation, I asked her to put her thoughts in writing so I could post them, and introduce Phoenix’ Kids In Focus project to the world. Below, is what she had to say.

If you are in the Phoenix area, I encourage you to scope out the work being created by the kids in the program. 


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Resiliency – The capacity to channel and overcome pain, upset, and breakdown versus succumb to it. 

A recent study identified this human quality as the single greatest determinant whether an at-risk child will rise above his or her circumstances. Dire circumstances are becoming all too commonplace. Estimates are that the number of homeless children each year will cost the US over $200B during their lifetimes, due to lost earnings, public welfare and crime. Attempts to “fix” this child welfare issue fail because they attempt only to rescue the youth from their environment rather than exploring ways to strengthen and encourage inner resolve.

As The Journal of Adolescent Health study argues on behalf of youthful resiliency as a marker for life achievement, it makes a compelling case for artistic expression as its catalyst. The study cites the power of creativity to boost self-esteem and increase coping skills … offer escape from dealing with painful circumstances… reshape reality and formulate future goals… contribute to social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy and sense of purpose… even bolster serotonin levels in the brain that reduce irritability and impulsivity.

 “Success consists of going from
failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

—Winston Churchill

As founder of Kids-in-Focus, I champion photography as a most effective and “democratic” form of creative expression… for its universal language that crosses all cultural, linguistic and economic divide… for its affordability and share-ability… for the thought, ideas, enthusiasm, experimentation, collaboration and discussion it inspires at every age and ability level. Having so far helped mentor 40 at-risk and homeless youth through photography projects, I am amazed at its enlivening, restorative power.

The kids learn to “see” the world around them differently, changing their perspective about themselves and their environments. Their eyes are opened to their own potential… their own resiliency. Creativity indeed has the ability to transform children from surviving in the world to thriving in it. Social scientists have the research to prove it. I have the program.

For more information about Kids-in-Focus, please visit

Karen Shell
Photographer and Founder of Kids-in-Focus

To see the program in action … enjoy this video: