With just a dusting of red light to guide her, Schuyler Loveless, 9, moved the photo paper around in chemical-infused water, explaining that she was “fixing” the image, to make sure it’s permanent and doesn’t “develop any more or any less.”
The final product: an image of a hand flashing a thumbs up sign under the word “Dad”.
Schuyler’s work took place in the CEPA Gallery darkroom, located in the basement of the Market Arcade, where five other students from Cradle Beach’s Project SOAR also worked on developing their “photograms.”
The field trip was the latest Schuyler has been on with Project SOAR, a year-round program through Cradle Beach that provides tutors and mentors to students at Lovejoy Discovery School, Lorraine Academy and Southside Elementary. During the school year, the project provides after-school tutoring and mentorship, as well as trips to Cradle Beach and weekend activities.
But instead of restricting the program to the academic year, Cradle Beach has Project SOAR – Success, Opportunity, Achievement and Responsibility – continue through the summer with field trips. Students are also guaranteed a spot at the 10-day Cradle Beach summer camp in Angola.
Learning tends to drop off in the summer, so the year-round component of the program is one method of helping sustain it, said Project SOAR director Nick Schifano.
Students enrolled in Project SOAR are selected by a committee at each of the schools which identifies students in need of academic, behavioral or attendance improvement.
In the fall, the program will enroll 220 students across the three schools. Selected students enter the program in the third grade.
Schuyler, a former Lovejoy Discovery student who tested into City Honors School last year, said the lunchtime tutoring was a help to her academically. She has ambitions of one day becoming a teacher and dentist.
“I really want to be a tutor in SOAR, too,” she added.
The help is far-reaching, extending beyond academics.
Sky Cyman, 11, said her mentor last year guided her through difficult times when bullies singled her out and called her names.
“She was always supportive of me. If I got bullied, she always talked to the kids,” Sky said.
That helpfulness rubbed off on Sky, who comforted a boy she found crying after being bullied.
“Next thing you know, I told him what happened to me,” she said. “He just started smiling.”
On a recent afternoon, Sky’s photogram consisted of an image of a hair brush and the Internet shorthand “YOLO,” a reminder that “you only live once,” she explained.
Adam Jones has participated in SOAR since he was 6 and counts kickball games among his favorite Project SOAR activities. Before joining the program, Jones said he had difficulty making friends because he was shy.
Adam is now 10 and distinctly remembers sitting in class and approaching a mentor about joining Project SOAR. “I walked up to one and asked if I could join the program and they said, ‘sure,’ ” the math enthusiast recalled. “They helped me become a straight-B student.”
When report card time rolls around and Adam sees those high marks, he said it feels “awesome, because my mom feels awesome and I’m happy when she’s happy.”