Through May 20, the Arizona Science Center is hosting a special photo exhibit of pictures taken by at-risk youth.

North Central-based nonprofit Kids in Focus was founded in 2012 by Karen Shell, a professional photographer who has volunteered with at-risk youth for 20 years. The goal of the program is to provide at-risk youth with a sense of accomplishment and value while they work with and get to know their mentors, their website states.

“I truly believe that the only way these kids can rescue themselves from their environments is to give them some self-worth and resilience,” Shell said.

Karen Shell, founder of Kids in Focus, holds a book featuring the photos taken by youth participants in the 2018 program, which currently are on display through May 20 inside the Arizona Science Center’s CREATE building (photo by Karenna Guzman).

Kids in Focus is an annual eight-week program where 30 kids are grouped with photographer mentors and given a camera to keep while they are taught about photography and how to see creatively.

“There is nothing more rewarding than getting to see these kids go forward into their lives with a sense of stability in who they are and the desire to want to spend their time in positive ways,” Shell said. “You have to empower these kids to change their own circumstances.”

The youth in the program have weekly photography assignments and are taken to different locations around the Valley, like Chase Field and the Desert Botanical Garden, to try out their photography techniques.

At the end of the eight-week program, Kids in Focus holds a free exhibit where the kids show their work to the public in a gallery-like setting. This year’s host is the Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., inside the adjacent CREATE building (to the south). Admission to this building is free. For hours of operation, visit

Amaya, 13, was one of the group members who participated in the 2018 program and showed off her work at the exhibit’s grand opening on March 29. “Kids in Focus was an amazing opportunity that I would love to do again,” she said.

Amaya also said that Kids in Focus took her to many places where she had never thought to take pictures before, and that she learned how to see the world more creatively.

Deanna Dent is one of the mentors who has volunteered for two years with Kids in Focus. “It’s rewarding to work with these kids and watch them figure out how to use the camera and set up cool shots,” Dent said.

After the exhibit closes on May 20 at the Arizona Science center, it moves to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, 215 N. 7th St., from May 23 through Aug. 20. The exhibit is free to the public on the first Friday of every month from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; all other days will be the cost of admission to the museum.

The Kids in Focus office is located at 3530 E. Indian School Road. For more information, call 602-753-6339 or visit


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