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Looking Into You - Open Reception

On Saturday, February 2, 2013 nearly 80 members from Milford High School, City Gospel Mission, and the OTR community gathered for the opening reception of Looking Into You - a New Voices production of photography and written reflections by Milford students and men in the Exodus Program at City Gospel Mission. The Exodus Program is a long-term residential recovery program for men struggling with drug or alcohol addictions.

Paired 1:1, the students (men and high schoolers) were tasked with exploring the OTR community through photography. Saturday was a display of their artwork, but also testimonials from the photographers themselves.

A student from Milford read her journal entry from the first day of the program and an entry she wrote after the experience. Her first entry was filled with fear, apprehension, stereotypes, and disdain. Her last entry was one of humility (the men welcoming the students into their home at City Gospel Mission), love (the relationship she formed with her fellow photographer and partner), growth (her new-found comfort in navigating downtown), knowledge (her understanding of addiction & poverty), and, most importantly, openness (the power of a relationship with someone she previously thought impossible).

Two men from the Exodus program also shared their experiences with those present….. how the photography and writing was part of their own recovery process. How the students’ relationship with them – unassuming and honest – was the first “taste” of meaningful friendships they have had in years. How they hoped the students would volunteer with City Gospel Mission and keep in touch.

Parents made a point to thank the Mayerson Foundation for the incredible opportunity to not only change their children, but to also change them. One mother greeted me in tears and expressed thanks for sparking more meaningful conversation with her daughter “over the last 4 months than the last 4 years;” challenging herself on issues of poverty that she had never entertained prior.

The partnership was organized by David Rosenthal, New Voices artist, and implemented at school with the Milford photography teacher, Janelle Schunk. She led this initiative after school, but also infused service-learning pedagogy in her classroom with the support of the Mayerson Service-Learning Program. The Milford superintendent was present, as well as community members, parents & friends, Exodus program sponsors, and more.

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