Amanda C. was usually found at the Louis & Elizabeth Sands Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix sharing a contagious laugh with some of the kids. But if you took a closer look into her hazel eyes, you might get a glimpse of some of the pain she had overcome. It's hard to understand what Amanda had to endure growing up. At age 2, Amanda lost her father and still does not know the details of his death. Later on, she had to overcome another loss when her mother divorced Amanda' stepfather, leaving her once again without a role model to follow. Losing one of her best friends could have been the tipping point for many teens, but Amanda had the support of the staff at her Boys & Girls Club. During the 11 years that Amanda attended the Boys & Girls Club, the Club provided her with much needed support. The Club was many things to Amanda, including a place to make new friends and a place where she could find help in making decisions such as what career to pursue, or what college to choose. Notes & StrokesThe 2006-2007 competition was the first time Amanda participated in the Club Tech Digital Arts Festivals. Through Club Tech, she became more confident in her computer skills, finding the Graphic Design portion of the Digital Arts Suite program most appealing. For Amanda, the first try was the charm as she won the national prize for her age group for her entry entitled Notes & Strokes. "Since I already wanted to be a professional photographer, this has taught me how to display my photographs in unique ways," she said of the Digital Arts program. Once, Amanda was able to attend a concert sans tickets, because Boys & Girls Club helped her get her foot in the door as a concert photographer. That opportunity was followed by requests to serve as a photographer at various music events in her hometown. The then 17-year-old also started her own website to showcase her artwork and photographic skills. The Club also instilled in Amanda a sense of community responsibility and a love for volunteering. After realizing that one of her grandmother's neighbors, Paula, had no one to talk to, Amanda introduced herself and began making a difference in Paula’s life. Amanda began spending time with Paula, who was suffering from osteoporosis, and committed herself to taking out Paula's trash every week. Their relationship grew to become less of a volunteering effort into something more like a family bond. "We did crafts and just talked. I would color her hair and style it for her. It was really nice." When asked why she did these things for Paula, Amanda explained, "I just knew Paula needed some friends and I wanted to be her friend." Amanda missed her friendship after her grandmother moved to another neighborhood. School and BeyondThrough her elementary and high school years, Amanda' love for helping others went beyond a mere sense of social responsibility and grew into a passion. Then, in the middle of her high school years, Amanda changed schools and had a hard time transitioning from auditorium-style to small classrooms in her freshmen year. Her grades began to drop and her attitude toward education became negative. That is when the Club's staff talked with her about the importance of education and of setting goals. Although it wasn't easy at first, Amanda' grades began to improve. She enrolled in night school to make up for the credits she failed to receive in the past. She was determined to be a member of the Media Club as well as a writer for the high school newspaper. During this time, she kept her commitment at the Club and there she discovered the magic of photography and received the education she needed to begin honing her skills. To date, her portfolio has earned her two national awards for photography. Amanda is enrolled at Harrington College of Design in Chicago where she is a student in the digital photography program. She credits the Club with instilling in her a sense of the importance of education and helping her discover her calling for photography.
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