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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Critical Exposure Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Children & Youth, Civil Rights, Visual Arts, Youth Development Programs

Mission: To teach youth to use the power of photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change.

Results: We have worked with over 800 students in five states and Washington, DC. The students and their images have helped partnering organizations and campaigns secure more than $400 million in new funding for underfunded schools and facilities in DC, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Target demographics: Low-income middle- and high-school students

Geographic areas served: DC, MD, VA, PA, TX, NM, LA

Programs: Dc school based and afterschool programs: critical exposure teaches students the basics of documentary photography and advocacy. Students are exposed to the work of a range of photographers and learn to "read" images, analyzing them to determine their subject, mood and message. They are also introduced to techniques for taking compelling photographs themselves. Students identify particular issues that impact their lives and document them through photography, writing, and multimedia. They then develop and lead campaigns to convince schools and communities to implement positive solutions to address those issues.

outreach/marketing & communications: critical exposure works with participating students to identify opportunities for their photographs and stories to reach both the community at large and targeted audiences such as public officials, school leaders, and community members. This outreach includes traveling exhibits and online displays of the students work. Exhibits take place at art galleries, conferences, coffee shops, libraries and other public spaces. The exhibits are an opportunity for youth

remote profects/train the trainer model: critical exposure partners with youth serving organizations and campaigns across the country to support their local, state and national efforts to improve public education or address other issues impacting youth.

Community Stories

20 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

I simply love the program Critical Exposure offers to our students. It not only encourages them to develop an artists "eye" but also to be aware of the impact photographs can have on the world, with the emphasis on social justice and current issues.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Critical Exposure for the past 4 years and I cannot say enough about how much this organization makes a difference in children's lives. The greatest thing about this nonprofit is that it not only teaches children the skill of photography, but it also provides them with the support needed to be advocates for themselves and their schools, and ultimately create social change to better their lives. For a lot of children, this program and the staff's dedication, has transformed their lives, empowering them in a way that hadn't before. As a resident of Washington, DC, I can't think of a better way to help children in this city better themselves, and the school system, than Critical Exposure. Adam, the director, and his team are incredibly dedicated to the mission, and the children.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure has made such a great addition to my after school program, the Multi-Ethnic Concerns Club for 9th-12th graders. The topics we cover are at times intense and sensitive, but Lauren and Fatimah are the perfect leaders for the conversations we have, and are never afraid of including important conversations that pop up on their own. They bring in such well thought out lessons and have a great incite into what the teenagers want to learn. I feel so fortunate to have them in my classroom.

Lisa197

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure takes a big bite of the social change apple. They are not content to help students recognize problems and apply piecemeal solutions. They ate fundamentally challenging the systemic reasons for inequity in our public schools and giving students the core skills in communications, problem-solving and advocacy to "be the change they want to see in the world." Critical Exposure's leadership and staff are in it for the right reasons and that integrity males them incredibly effective with students, school administrators and local officials. They have the success stories to prove it, I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to invest in youth and unleash their power for positive change!

Volunteer

Rating: 4

The cleverness of the turn of phrase "critical exposure" is matched by the sass and drive of the people who work there. As a photo enthusiast and volunteer who has helped out at photography exhibits of students' work, and fundraisers, I am impressed by the team's big plans, and their ability to follow through. Bigger than life portraits by students in area businesses? Why not! Raising tens of thousands of dollars through student photo-activism? Done! Auctions of framed student work alongside of donated works by internationally acclaimed award winning photographers? Teach those students to aim high! But the evidence of the impact lies in the testimonies of the student participants themselves who consistently reiterate that being part of critical exposure has given them a means to channel creativity, inspired confidence, and taught them skills beyond photography in the realm of organization, commitment, and critical thinking. I hope Critical Exposure continues its good work!

Donor

Rating: 5

What is unique about Critical Exposure is that it gives the students the tools they need to effect change for themselves. That approach provides them with a sense of empowerment that no handout can ever match.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure tackles one of the toughest challenges facing our nation – helping the most underperforming schools and hardest to reach students – and does so through a unique mix of shocking photography, smart policy and heartbreaking student testimony. CE empowers students with the tools and opportunity to confront elected officials, the media and the public with a reality that most people only see from a distance and moving people to take action. The fact that Critical Exposure has grown and flourished so much in both size and scope - especially in such tough economic times when most non-profits can’t even survive - is a true mark of this organization's value and success.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Year after year I continue to be impressed with the top talent and the commitment the CE team has toward the mission. With little resources, CE is able to make a significant impact on the lives of students as well as help bring about change in the schools--truly making a positive difference.

Donor

Rating: 5

Watching Critical Exposure grow, I've been impressed by the organization's ability to combine the joy and power of photography with effective policy impact. By empowering students to tell their own stories, it inspires the students documenting the conditions in their schools, the policy makers who have acted to improve school conditions, and the many others who have viewed the work.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love working with and on behalf of children, especially for causes related to improving their educational opportunities. Volunteering with Critical Exposure provides a great way for me to feel like I am making a direct difference and impact on major youth issues like reducing the high school drop-out rate, improving school facilities and lunches, and other barriers to the first-rate education ALL kids deserve.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been inspired by the work they do to give inner city young people a voice. Most people only know about what it is like to grow up in a tough inner city neighborhood from what they see on TV. Through Critical Exposure I was able to hear directly from young people and see through their pictures what life is actually like. By lifting up these voices and connecting them to policy makers who can make a difference, Critical Exposure plays a powerful role in restoring the American dream.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have recently joined the family of Critical Exposure and given the size of the staff and members the organization does a great job in bring awareness to the inequities of the public school system. I think with more funding and resources the organization will continue to grow and make impacts on young children as they continue to express themselves through photography and their own voices.

Donor

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure (CE) has the unique ability to make a difference in one student's life while also working toward social change to improve the lives of all students. I am grateful that CE shares its passion for photography, education, and empowerment with youth and vulnerable communities.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am fortunate to know well the work that Critical Exposure does with the youth in the communities it serves. CE takes the energy of a small group of passionate individuals to create big change in classrooms, communities, and cities. Teens have documented the high school drop-out crisis in DC Public Schools, they've taken school systems to task to change the conditions of school buildings in districts across the country, and they've helped tell the story youth homelessness. I've seen the effect the young people's photographs have on viewers, when their work is exhibited. The images force people to stop. They shake their heads in disbelief. They look around for other people in the room to share their thoughts with... It is truly remarkable. And that's to say nothing of the impact the photographs and advocacy work have made on legislation and budgets of big cities and school districts.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Our organization partnered with Critical Exposure several times to implement youth led service learning projects in the community. District youth researched various issues in their community, photographed these issues, and used these photos and their own captions to advocate for changes. Our work with Critical Exposure truly helped youth understand that they could in fact help transform their lives and their communities and gave youth life long lessons. They are a fantastic, well organized, and highly professional organization. They deeply and genuinely care about their work, their mission,

Board Member

Rating: 5

To engage with Critical Exposure is to be struck by three things: 1) that it teaches a skill - photography - that gives children an empowering voice and a potential avocation later; 2) the maturity of its staff and programs despite its size; and 3) the way it just executes on all cylinders. Attend one of their functions and you cannot help but see the power of their mission at work, on the walls in the form of the photographs underprivileged children take to document the deplorable conditions of their schools and living circumstances.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure is supporting students around the country in learning new skills AND telling their personal stories to the general public. Through this process, students support important policies changes that will improve their lives directly and gain confidence as they learn the fundamental of photography and the power of personal expression. It is vital the the people actually affected by issues -- and in this case young people themselves -- are actively engaged in discussions about solutions. Critical Exposure is extremely effective in this process.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure taught my middle school students how to document what worked and what didn't work in our school, write about these photographs, and create a petition for change. Students felt empowered and engaged through this work, and they learned skills that they will carry with them -- photography, advocacy, and writing.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Critical Exposure is a fantastic organization that works with many inspiring and talented young people. They provide underpriviledged students with the tools and training they need to document their school conditions and then use these photographs to lobby for change. Not only does their work address many of the financial inequalities in the school system, but it is teaching young people how to effectively have a voice for change in their community -- a skill that will benefit them the rest of their lives.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have known Adam for several years and have attended 4 or 5 critical exposure (CE) gallery/auction type events hosted by CE. The organizations work is certainly a worthy cause - helping to educate the public about the conditions of our school system and trying to secure add'l money to improve our school system. How they accomplish this one of the remarkable aspects of the organization. They recruit students and teach them how to use photography to capture school condition and use this to seek improvement - either through public awareness, increased funding, better safety, etc. If you're fortunate to attend one of the Galleries hosted by CE, I'm sure you will be shocked by the conditions that are shown by these school photographers, but also impressed by the professionalism and passion that is shared by the staff as well as the student photographers. I've also been able to spend some time speaking with a few of the students at these events and it is great to see what some students are trying to do to make a difference. I'm happy to continue to support critical exposure and wish them well.