7960622686?profile=original(L-r) Kirsten Stephenson and Alyce Erickson, of the National Society of Arts and Letters’ Florida East Coast Chapter with Boca Raton Community High School photography students Blythe Nieporte, 18, and Christine Stephenson, 16; project mentor Vanessa Nieporte; and photography teacher Rob Sweeten. Photo provided

By Amy Woods

    Student shutterbugs from Boca Raton Community High School have stepped up to participate in a pilot project with the National Society of Arts and Letters’ Florida East Coast Chapter that, when completed, will serve as a model for chapters across the country.
    The project, which encompasses a gallery exhibition and master photography class, will debut Feb. 27 at Florida Atlantic University’s Theatre Lab in Boca Raton. The exhibition will feature the work of 12 budding photographers, and the class will be led by award-winning New York Times photojournalist Stephen Crowley.
    “I am so excited about this,” said Alyce Erickson, the chapter’s president emeritus. “I want anyone who is interested in helping young people to come and see what this is all about.”
    The exhibition opens at 10 a.m. The class gets underway after lunch and will run until 3 p.m. Chapter members, FAU supporters, parents and the public are invited.
    “I have a love for young artists,” Erickson said. “I want to find them. I want to help them. I want to promote them.”
    Last May, she attended the society’s board meeting in St. Louis and brought up the idea of involving youths in the creative arts. A plan snapped into action when she returned to her Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club home, the chapter’s unofficial headquarters, where she shared her story with a gathering of students and received a flood of feedback.
    “I explained all the disciplines to them and what the society was about, and when I got to photography, two of the students jumped up and down and said, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ ” Erickson said.
    Her goal is to chart the course of the project and present it for a vote this May at the society’s board meeting in Phoenix.
    “It’s exhilarating to think that, in some minute way, you might make a difference in the life of a child,” Erickson said.
    Rob Sweeten, the school’s photography teacher, has been busy organizing and preparing his passionate picture-takers for the exhibition.
    “It’s opening up different opportunities for them, so that’s a good thing,” Sweeten said.
“Photography is kind of the art form for this generation. Not many of my students paint or draw, but all of them have a camera in their back pocket.”
    Blythe Nieporte, an 18-year-old senior, is one of them.
    “I chose to take part in this program because of my interest in the arts and the opportunity [that] presented itself to me,” Nieporte said. “I intend to establish the principles of the program so other institutions can follow in our ways, along with encouraging our members to produce exemplary work for our exhibit and master class.”

If You Go
What: High School Pilot Project Photography Exhibition and Master Photography Class
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 27
Where: Florida Atlantic University’s Theatre Lab, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton.
Cost: Free
Information: 391-6380 or www.nsalfloridaeast.org

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