They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, there are some pictures that can leave you speechless. The Stetson Shutterbugs have been producing breathtaking pictures that have hung on gallery walls in and out of the U.S. Tony Rocco who is an educator at John B. Stetson Charter Middle School, runs the Shutterbug program. We sat down with Rocco to discuss the impact the Shutterbug program has had on the kids, himself, as well as their global impact.
“In its most basic form, it’s an after school program that kids can put their energy into something positive.” Rocco then goes on to explain that although it is essentially an after school programs, kids are engaged in math, science, as well as communication with other cultures. The students voluntarily meet after school and engage in photography. Rocco teaches the fine points of capturing images and guides the kids as they hone their skills. Although the Shutterbugs are based in North Philadelphia, the program’s impact reaches beyond the walls of Stetson Charter School. In fact the kids enrolled in the program have become global ambassadors of Philly.
“The kids went to Colombia and taught photography to the kids there. Taking our values and culture and showing kids in another country what it’s like for them in North Philly.” As Rocco recounts the recent trip he also explained that even though many of the Shutterbug members will not go onto become professional photographers, it’s these types of trips that leave lasting impressions on kids.
As the interview progressed we can get a sense of how proud Rocco has become of not only the program but the kids themselves. “Something Amazing what a lot of other programs don’t have is that our kids stay. They stay in the program.” The kids have become so enthralled with the art of photography and the guidance of Rocco, they remain involved in the program long after graduating from Stetson. “Even though about half the kids have graduated and gone on to high school, they are still called the Stetson Shutterbugs. In fact our graduates, high school students are now teaching the younger youth,” Rocco explains.
The mentoring and guidance Rocco has given to his earlier students are now being paid forward to the newer Shutterbug generation. We are not the first to recognize Rocco’s amazing work with the program. In fact last year he received “The Educator of the Year,” award at the Hispanic Choice Awards.
The Shutterbugs themselves have been recognized within the Philadelphia art and photography community. Many of the photos produced by the Shutterbugs have gone on to be sold at galleries throughout the city. It is programs like these that instill leadership and confidence in the youth as well as developing a skill that they can use for a lifetime.