Engaging young people in advocacy, education & prevention
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Smiling for a good cause

September 16, 2009 10:20 am Published by Comments Off on Smiling for a good cause

"Photos for a Cause" in action

Shana Manion and Travis Greer (at left) wait for their turns to pose while Grace Anderson of Decadent Images snaps Juan Mendez’s portrait. Photo: Sue Bell, Decadent Images.


That was the oft-heard word last Sunday as dozens turned out for a  worthy fundraising event — and got to smile for the camera, too.

On August 9, 2009, local photo studio Decadent Images put on a “Photos  for a Cause” event; for only $10, participants got a professional  photo portrait done. At the same time, they go to be do-gooders — all proceeds went to Straight Up Ventura County, a youth  development program that focuses on the issues surrounding  drinking and impaired driving among youth in the area — an  ever-increasing problem.

The event was hosted at the Ventura Improv Company, a theater known for causing smiles, as they put on comedy improv shows every weekend, and run ongoing improv and acting workshops for youth and adults. Located in historic downtown Ventura, the theatre space was the perfect venue for the photo shoots that went on throughout the day.

A group of Straight Up youth volunteers were on hand to help out and answer questions about Straight Up’s many programs and activities, which include theater and improv events, multimedia projects and spokesperson training — all of which explore the issues and challenges surrounding underage and binge drinking and impaired driving in the County.

Mario and Corena
Straight Up youth volunteers Mario Apolinar, 18, and Corena Arellano, 19, pose in front of a banner they helped to make. The banner declares “We can make a difference!” Photo: Sue Bell, Decacent Images.

Mario Apolinar, 18, a Straight Up summer team youth leader, has been working with younger kids on a variety of projects, including writing, video and activism. “Straight Up gives me a chance to work with youth around the County and to make people aware of the  problems we are facing today in this society,” he says. “Working over the summer with Straight Up is an honor and I enjoy every single second. Straight Up is the way to go!” Mario, as a Straight Up spokesperson, was recently asked to speak at an Oxnard planning meeting about alcohol use in the city.

Sue Bell, owner of Decadent Images and organizer of the event, appreciates Straight Up’s work in the community. “Even though it seems like a million years ago, I remember what it was like to be a youth,” she says. “I had a few mentors that were positive influences on my development. Now I like to reciprocate what my mentors did for me. Working with Straight Up on this project was very rewarding. I like to think the youths I met are possible future community leaders.  We really enjoyed photographing them at this stage of their life.”

Funded through Ventura County Behavioral Health Department Prevention Services, Straight Up is feeling the difficult economic times. “We need the community’s support more than ever,” says Becky Newman, Straight Up’s media specialist. “We need to keep alcohol awareness — and communication between youth and adults — a priority in Ventura County.”

View slideshow here:

More information about Straight Up can be found at www.straightupvc.org.

More information about Decadent Images can be found at www.decadentimages.com.