Kids are dressed in their Sunday best, gigantic bows have been strategically placed on heads, and awkward teens everywhere are playing the worst possible picture day scenarios in their brains. Embarrassing photos aside, getting a school yearbook made picture day worth it in the end.
With the Akron, Ohio area currently experiencing high poverty levels, some children in the community don’t get the opportunity to take home a yearbook at the end of the year. They might not have the opportunity to experience picture day either. One Akron based teacher in set out to change that.
Nicole Bozickovich, a recent graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), started working as an art teacher at the public charter school STEAM Academy of Akron in 2015. Without a classroom of her own, Nicole rolls a cart classroom to classroom. During her first year as a nomadic teacher, she noticed that most of the children she taught weren’t getting their school photos taken. She realized that some of the parents were unable to purchase their child’s school photos, and that was why most parents opted out of their child having photos taken. Nicole was determined to make sure every STEAM student experience picture day, and she devised an awesome action plan to do just that.
Nicole enlisted the help of Nancy McEntee, head of the photography department at CIA. “I asked Nancy if I could borrow some photo equipment, and after telling her what I wanted to do she suggested asking CIA photography students to volunteer,” said Nicole.
She recruited four volunteers who jumped at the chance to help her with this inspiring project. Their knowledge of photography and editing skills were extremely useful, and with four extra helpers to assist her in coordinating this picture perfect event, they were able to create and produce flyers for it which they then gave to the parents. With things moving right along, Nicole then created a schedule to photograph all 150 students! When picture day rolled around, it was clear that the students were eager to be photographed. “The kids came in all dressed up. You could see the amount of confidence they had. They felt important enough to get their picture taken,” Nicole said.
Nicole wanted to give photo prints to the children’s parents, so she turned to CIA once again.“I was thrilled when Nancy told me that CIA would donate the prints. The parents would be getting their child’s photos for free,” Nicole said. The timing was perfect. She surprised the parents with their children’s photos just in time for Christmas.
Free photos weren’t the only gift Nicole would help give to the students. Nicole’s brother, Jakprints Warehouse Manager, Mat Galati, went to Jakprints CEO, Nick DeTomaso, to tell him the story. Nick was inspired by the love going into Nicole’s project and jumped at the chance to get involved. Nicole and Nick decided yearbooks would be the perfect way to end the school year. Recruiting the help of CIA students once more, the yearbook layout was completed and it was time to get them rolling on the press.
“When Mat brought it to my attention, it was such a great cause. With so much printing coming across our line of sight each and every day, it’s easy to lose touch with how much certain print mean to people. It’s exciting to know that we have the capability with manufacturing and a great team to help put these yearbooks together and bring joy to all the kids. Knowing that it’s not just valuable to them now, but will be an increasingly important keepsake as they get older is an amazing gift to be a part of,” Nick said. Jakprints was able to print and donate all of the yearbooks to the project for free.
“Life goes by fast. What might seem like fun one day in class, signing yearbooks and writing messages to each other, will be a treasure to them later in life. I think it is especially valuable to these kids because of the story behind it and the engagement from Nicole and her partners in the project. It is obvious that a lot of love went into cooking these up for them,” said Nick.
Yearbooks rolled off the press just in time for summer vacation, and delivering the books to the students was the perfect way to end the school year. “The students were able to feel how important they are. They were important enough to have their photo taken, and now they were able to take these home and see themselves and their friends in these yearbooks,” said Nicole.
With a day set aside for the students to look through the yearbooks and sign them with their friends, there was an abundance of excitement around the school. “Students asked me if they were going to be able to take them home, and their reactions when I told them the yearbooks were theirs to keep was priceless,” Nicole said.
Experiencing the students excitement and gratitude inspired Nicole to start her own non-profit, and CIA is working on creating an internship with the program to offer to its students. She plans to extend this photo day opportunity to the STEAM students again next year, and is working to put another school in front of her camera lens.
Anyone interested in helping Nicole with her upcoming non-profit or donating to the project can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about STEAM Academy of Akron call 330-773-1100.