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Tampa teens aided by photojournalism course

By PAT LEISNER, Associated Press

TAMPA -- A 10-week photojournalism program changed the way 16-year-old housing-authority resident Ramon Rosado sees the world around him.

Designed by David Handschuh, a New York Daily News photographer injured Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, the program made Rosado concentrate on nature and his surroundings and realize life is special.

"It changed my perspective," the teen-ager said Wednesday, as dozens of pictures taken by him and five other teens went on display at the Tampa Housing Authority youth center.

Handschuh, 42, underwent surgery three times on his legs after his rescue amid debris from the terrorist attack on New York City.

He teamed up with Mary Fox of Planergy International, a Richmond, Calif., energy subsidiary to create the photojournalism program. She helped redirect money from public housing energy conservation measures to fund the $40,000 pilot program.

"I was bitten when I was 13. I hope one of the kids gets bitten by the photobug," said Handschuh, an adjunct professor at New York University for six years.

"At first I thought it was probably going to be boring," Rosado said. Ten weeks later he's an aspiring news photographer.

The ninth grader said when he picks a subject he can make a story out of it.

For instance, he photographed two empty lawn chairs, covered in stars and stripes. In the background are bars on a balustrade, an upright, vase-like support for a railing.

To him, the American flag represents security; the bars, boundaries.

"Ramon sees the moment. He sees the opportunity to immerse himself," Handschuh said.

Picture taking also opened up Rosado's world socially.

"I was kind of shy. I didn't like walking up to strangers," he said. "It's easy once you get the hang of it."

Since February, the teen-agers have spent four hours every Saturday going places, photographing neighborhoods, nature, fairs, people. They took pictures of a clown, firefighters, relatives, children at play, a bubble festival, a mock pirate invasion.

Rosado said his parents bought him a camera so he can follow his dream.

Brittany Brown, 13, took the course out of curiosity. Her first pictures were sideways. Then she got help from Doug White, a University of South Florida journalism graduate student who mentored the class.

The seventh grader, who said she would have been home watching cartoons otherwise, wants to be a dentist, but will keep photography as a hobby.

"A lot of our kids don't have the opportunity or access to computers or digital equipment. This helps bridge the gap," said James Harrell, youth services director at the Tampa Housing Authority.

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