Youth in Focus 


For 21 years, we have provided a high-quality, nationally recognized youth development program that uses photography to help at-risk youth build skills that give them the confidence and self-worth to challenge barriers to a positive life. Youth in Focus serves 300 youth a year through our core photography program as well as partner programs in the community. Approximately 3,300 students have gone through our program and we are proud to continue to offer at-risk youth the chance to tell their story through the lens of a camera.
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. 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.
Donate Now
Youth in Focus
2100 24th Ave S 
(206) 723-1479 

Ms. Trina Gadsden 
Executive Director 


Youth in Focus Programs

Our core photography program has consisted of classes in both black and white film and digital photography. In order to be accepted into our program, youth must complete an application, attend an in-person one-on-one interview, and commit to our community agreements and youth development mission. Youth are placed in classes after considering their learning styles, support needs, and the dynamics of the community to ensure a successful experience for everyone. All materials and equipment are included to ensure equitable access to the tools necessary to successfully complete our program. At the conclusion of the quarter, youth present their final images, self-portraits, and artist statements at their public End of Quarter show. This celebration gives each youth the opportunity to share their voice and reflect on their experience.

Youth in Focus also partners with other agencies for fee-based photography services. Options include personalized workshops and classes, head shots and photo booths. Past partners include Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Office of Arts Culture and Seattle Public Library.

Recent Successes and Current Challenges

The Seattle Public Schools’ Service Learning Coordinator approved our classes to qualify for service learning hours for youth who fully complete our program.

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 Spring 2014, 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. 

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.

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. We also have needs for volunteers who provide administrative support as well as assist our eBay store and Traveling Shows program.

We also gladly accept in-kind donations of photography equipment. 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.

We warmly welcome monetary donations to support our youth development photography program and the at-risk youth we serve.


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:

10/21/2015 $10,000.00support general operating expenses.
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.


Similar Organizations

Give broadly to Arts & Culture
If broadening access and engagement with the arts, increasing arts education in public schools, and creating and preserving arts space is important to you, then make a difference by giving to the Grantmaking Program.
Questions or comments about this organization?
Contact us to learn more.