Empowerment, education, and action are the key elements in the two major success stories Emilia Wiles has spearheaded at The Point Community Development Corporation in the Bronx. As program manager of ICP at the Point and ACTION (Activists Coming To Inform Our Neighborhood), Emilia took struggling programs and made them into recognized models of afterschool excellence.
Through ICP at the Point, a thriving program established in 1996 by the International Center of Photography and the Point CDC, young people learn all aspects of photography, from camera use to film development to gallery presentation. The program doesn’t stop with basic skill-building, but provides young people opportunities to work with professional photographers, museum professionals and other talented artists through collaborations with organizations such as National Geographic, the New York Times, and New York Magazine.
ICP at the Point was recently awarded a Coming Up Taller Award, which recognizes the top ten afterschool arts programs in the country. In another indicator of the program’s success, students regularly go on to attend art schools, often on full scholarship, and many others are employed using the photography skills developed in this program. Many alumni have become professional photographers, and employees as well as students at The International Center of Photography downtown. Emilia herself, a graduate of Wesleyan University, is a continuing education student at The International Center of Photography and has exhibited at galleries around the city.
Simultaneously, Emilia manages the ACTION program at the Point, where young people work on local community justice issues including an anti-tobacco campaign, asthma, gang violence, air pollution, prostitution, HIV/AIDS awareness and others, and also receive professional
academic support and college counseling, and training as public speakers. The ACTION youth develop educational videos around each issue, transforming them into empowered activists for their own communities. Tatiana, an ACTION youth, explains, “Emilia has helped me realize that I have the best ability in the world, to analyze and think about everything I could change. She has also helped me realize that my voice will be heard if I put all my effort and heart into it.”