Youth in Focus 


For 20 years, we have worked with close to 3,000 youth ages 13-19 years old, who face a variety of challenges in their lives on a daily basis, and who struggle with a combination of racial or ethnic discrimination, poverty or homophobia.

We reach at-risk youth at a crucial time – at or before the 9th grade – when 90% of youth that drop out do so at this time. 

Nearly 73% of our students qualify for the free/reduced lunch program, 82% are students of color, and 70% of students live with a single parent or have other living arrangements.

Mission Statement
Youth in Focus’s mission is to empower urban youth, through photography, to experience their world in new ways and to make positive choices for their lives.

We put cameras in the hands of low income, at-risk youth and place them in a challenging environment surrounded by high quality talented teachers, nurturing adult volunteer mentors, and create a strong community of support.  Through photography our students find their voice, identity, creativity, and gain new confidence in their worth and abilities.
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Youth in Focus
2100 24th Ave S 
(206) 407-2122 

Ms. Trina Gadsden 
Executive Director 


Youth in Focus Programs

At Youth in Focus, our students receive a $1,400 scholarship which covers the total cost of instruction and equipment in either our black and white or digital photography classes. Students meet for their class twice a week for nine weeks; quarters are held throughout the year and are on track with the Seattle Public School calendar.  At the end of the nine weeks, student showcase their final work at a public End of Quarter Show. Attendees get the chance to hear the students speak about their photography as well as view their self portraits and artist statements.

Youth in Focus also partners with other agencies for fee-based youth development photography workshops.  These workshops expand our own reach as well as enhances the partner agency's regular programming.  We have worked with community centers, schools and other youth service agencies. Past partners include Friends of the Children, YouthCare, South Lake High School, Big Picture High School and the Seattle Art Museum among others.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

Since 2010, Youth in Focus has worked with the Raikes Foundation to participate in the Youth Program Quality Initiative.  Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) scores for Youth in Focus, in the Spring of 2012 and 2013, were consistently higher than comparison scores for 1,262 other National Youth programs.  Our scores were higher in all main categories, and significantly higher in Supportive Environment and Youth Engagement.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities recognized Youth in Focus as a model program in the year 2000, providing “life-changing activities” to youth with limited opportunities.  Our students have shown their work at the Seattle Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Frye Art Gallery, Benham Gallery and the Washington State Convention Center, and among other local venues.

As any nonprofit which offers a free program to youth, we warmly welcome donations to support our youth development photography program.  Thank you for believing in our positive outcomes and our mission's impact.

We also love extra hands at Youth in Focus, including additional volunteers, interns and mentors.  Mentors with experience in black and white and digital photography provide support to our Teaching Artists and assist our students with developing their voice through a camera lens.  We also have needs for volunteers and interns who provide administrative support as well as assist or lead our eBay store and Traveling Shows program.  

We also gladly accept in-kind donations of useable film and digital cameras.  If the cameras aren't specifically used in our program, we sell them in our eBay store to help offset the cost of our photography supplies.  Please contact us for more information.


Founded in 1994, Youth in Focus is a youth development program that uses photography as a tool to help young people find their voice and gain self-confidence.

Accessibility and Cultural Competency
All students are interviewed prior to admission and all students admitted attend classes free of charge. Youth in Focus prioritizes youth who face more than the usual barriers. 75% are low income, 82% are people of color, 70% are from single-parent homes.. Some are homeless, suffered abuse and neglect, have addiction issues or are doing poorly in school. Youth in Focus wants these youth to come away with the knowledge that they have important things to say and a new way to say it.

Best Practices
Youth in Focus has served over 2,850 youth over its 20 year history. This number is small compared to some organizations but they have committed to not compromising quality for quantity, there by making them a highly sought after model by similar organizations all over the country. The class sizes are small to facilitate deeper relationships between students and Teaching Artists and adult mentors and multi-level training is part of a focus on high expectations coupled with respect and individual attention. Since 2010, Youth in Focus has received support from the Raikes Foundation and participates in their Youth Program Quality Initiative, which provides a framework for how they teach youth

Financial Health
Youth in Focus weathered the economic downturn by eliminating .5 FTE of staff and a reduction in classes. After ending 2009 in the black they implemented a budget that brought staff and class schedule back to 2008 levels. In 2012, they hired Trina Gadsden as the Executive Director to lead the organization and expand it’s reach in the community to impact more at-risk youth. While financially stable they are looking to increase individual support while maintaining support levels in other areas.

Grant History with The Seattle Foundation:

Grants Awarded through The Seattle Foundation Grantmaking Program:

9/10/2012 $5,000.00support general operating expenses.
10/1/2008 $15,000.00support general operating expenses.
10/5/2006 $20,000.00support general operating expenses.


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