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Celebrating the Achievements of Children TM

Amazing Kids! of the Month

Amazing Kids! is proud to highlight the Amazing Kids! of the Month!

Each month, we showcase kids who are accomplishing amazing things. We hope that by telling their special stories, we will inspire other kids to accomplish their own amazing achievements.

Amazing Kids! of the Month for February, 2006: 
Amazing Young Photographers; Honolulu, Hawaii

Participants in "Doorways" from Project Focus, Hawai'i
Amazing Young Photographers preparing photos for their "Doorways" Exhibition, as part of a youth photography project organized by ProjectFocus, Hawai'i

Quote of the Month: 

"The best part was being famous - everybody coming up to you and making a big deal. People think this place is ghetto. I want everyone to recognize us - that we're not
just ghetto."

Jasmine, age 12;
Amazing Young Photographer

and "Doorways" Exhibition Participant

Honolulu, Hawai'i

"They [the Project Focus directors] told us how the way we kids see things is important.

"The best thing was when the photographers caught us at 'bad moments' - off-guard. Then we shared these pictures with one another." "

Shauntell, age 12
Amazing Young Photographer
and "Doorways" Exhibition Participant

Honolulu, Hawai'i

"I can make friends easily.  I will be America's top lawyer."

Georgette, age 13
Amazing Young Photographer
and "Doorways" Exhibition Participant
Honolulu, Hawai'i

"I am a basketball player.  I can do a handstand.  I will change the bad things in my life."

Kelvin, age 12
Amazing Young Photographer
and "Doorways" Exhibition Participant
Honolulu, Hawai'i

"They are amazing kids. They are humble and grateful and so honest in their feeling. It really validates what we are doing."

Lisa Uesugi, professional photographer
co-founder, ProjectFocus Hawai'i

Young Photographers Bring Unique Focus on Life in a Honolulu Housing Project

It has been said that pictures tell a thousand words.  As you will see in this month's Amazing Kids! of the Month story below, the amazing young budding photographers at Kuhio Park Terrace and a low-income housing neighborhood in nearby Kalihi have some amazing stories to tell through the medium of photography.  Through their participation in the ProjectFocus Hawai'i "Doorways" photography project, they were given the opportunity to share their own unique stories in several Honolulu-area exhibitions of their photography. 

In our online "exhibit" of their work below, you will see inspiring photographs of both the ProjectFocus/Doorways participants (taken by the amazing and dedicated ProjectFocus directors/photographers Lisa Uesug, owner of Utopia Photography, and Laurie Callies, owner of Baby Face Productions), as well as the young participants' own photographs taken of their family members.  Who knows?  Perhaps you'll be inspired by their work to grab a camera and start taking your own photographs, so you too can tell your own unique story through pictures!

And don't forget:  if you, or a young person (or persons!) you know, has an amazing project you are involved in, or a special skill, talent or ability you want to tell the world about, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it!  Teachers are invited to nominate classroom projects too!  Simply complete our Amazing Kids! of the Month award online nomination form, ( or email us!

Table of Contents

Amazing Young Photographers
Amazing Photography
About Project Focus
About PACT's Community Teen Program
Related Links

Amazing Young Photographers

Last summer, fourteen lucky budding young photographers from Kuhio Park Terrace and neighboring Kalihi in Honolulu, Hawai'ii, were given a very special opportunity to learn more about themselves and their families, while at the same time learning about the amazing art of photography. 

The idea for the project, called "ProjectFocus Hawai'i," was initiated by two professional photographers, Lisa Uesugi and Laurie Callies, who own their own photography businesses in the Honolulu, Hawai'i area.  Both are former educators who wanted to do a project for kids as a way of giving back to their communities.

The photographers approached the director of PACT, (Parents and Children Together), a program for families at the low-income housing development of Kuhio Park Terrace. Participants in PACT include both families in Kuhio Park Terrace as well as a low income neighborhood in nearby Kalihi, Hawai'i.

PACT teen program director Cheryl Johnson agreed to allowing the teens in her program participate.  It didn't take long before she noticed how the program positively affected the children's self-esteem, helping them see themselves in a better light than ever before. 

After seeing her own work at their first exhibition at the nearby Dole Cannery, 13-year-old ProjectFocus participant Jasmine Amato remarked proudly:

"The best part was being famous - everybody coming up to you and making a big deal. People think this place is ghetto. I want everyone to recognize us - that we're not
just ghetto."

According to Lisa Uesugi, by telling their own stories through the medium of photography, the project not only created new opportunities for the kids to learn a new skill, but it gave them "a voice."  First the students were taught them some basics about photography, composition and photo shoots, then they each were given their own camera. "

Before they could begin shooting photographs, they had to select their subjects they would be shooting and complete a writing assignment.

"Their assignment was to find somebody who is special and unique to them. It is interesting, the people they picked," said Uesugi.

"To inspire more thoughtfulness in their assignments, each participant was given a writing assignment and asked to describe why the person whom they wanted to take a picture of was special to them," Uesugi explained. "Additionally they were each required to write an ‘I Am, I Can, I Will' statement."  

The students' written statements are included along with their photos in the portfolio of work on the Project Focus Hawai'i "Doorways" web site (  Click on the "Portfolio" link to view their work.)

The names and ages of the participants in the "Doorways" exhibition are as follows:

  • Salote Liutolo-Lopes, 10
  • Sione Liutolo-Lopes, 11
  • Georgette Liutolo-Lopes, 14
  • Donette Miller, 10
  • Dansen Miller, 12
  • Shauntell Cotton, 13
  • Fenumiai Tofilau, 13
  • Kelvin Ruben, 12
  • Pio Faamautau Jr., 11
  • Jasmine Amato, 13
  • Andre (Rico) Ammons, 12
  • Paul Pula, 17
  • Evelynn Iosua, 13
  • Lusina Otineru, 14

Amazing Photography

Pictured below are photographs of the participants, as well as their own photographs taken as part of the Project Focus "Doorways" project and exhibition.  The entire exhibition, along with written statements by each of the photographers may be viewed on the Project Focus website at:  (Click on "Portfolio" to view their work.)

Dansen Miller, age 12,  Amazing Young Photographer

Dansen Miller, 12

Dansen's brother
Photograph by Dansen Miller, 12

Donette Miller, age 10, Amazing Young Photographer
Donette Miller, 10

Donette's Mom
Photograph by Donette Miller, 10

Evelynn Iosua, age 13, Amazing Young Photographer
Evelynn Iosua, 13

Evelynn's Sister
Photograph by Evelynn Iosua, 13
Fenumiai Tofilau, age 13, Amazing Young Photographer
Fenumiai "Mai" Tofilau, 13

Mai's Grandfather
Photograph by "Mai" Fenumiai Tofilau, 13

Georgette Liutolo-Lopes, age 14 - Amazing Young Photographer
Georgette Liutolo-Lopes, 14

Georgette's Grandmother
Photograph by Georgette Liutolo-Lopes, 14

Jasmine Amato, 13 - Amazing Young Photographer
Jasmine Amato, 13

Jasmine's Mom
Photograph by Jasmine Amato, 13

"There's a dartboard in the background because my mom plays almost everyday and when she's stressed. I wanted to show she's a tomboy like me." - Jasmine

Kelvin Ruben, 12 - Amazing Young Photographer
Kelvin Ruben, 12

Kelvin's Grandmother
Photograph by Kelvin Ruben, 12

Sina Otineru, 14 - Amazing Young Photographer
Lusina "Sina" Otineru, 14

Sina's Sister
Photograph by
Lusina Otineru, 14

Paul Pula, 17 - Amazing Young Photographer
Paul Pula, 17

Paul's Sister
Photograph by
Paul Pula, 17

Pio Faamautau Jr., 11 - Amazing Young Photographer
Pio Faamautau Jr., 11

Pio's Mother
Photograph by
Pio Faamautau Jr., 11

Andre "Rico" Ammons, 12 - Amazing Young Photographer
Andre "Rico" Ammons, 12

Rico's Father
Photograph by
Andre "Rico" Ammons, 12

    Salote Liutolo-Lopes, 10 - Amazing Young Photographer
    Salote Liutolo-Lopes, 10

Salote's Brother
Photograph by Salote Liutolo-
Lopes, 10

Shauntell Cotton, 13 - Amazing Young Photographer
Shauntell Cotton, 13

Shauntell's Sister
Photograph by
Shauntell Cotton, 13

Sione Liutolo-Lopes, 11 - Amazing Young Photographer
Sione Liutolo-Lopes, 11

Sione's Grandmother
Photograph by Sione Liutolo-Lopes, 11

Keep up the great work, everyone!  We'll keep an eye out for your professional photography work in the future!

Back to Table of Contents

About Project Focus:

ProjectFocus Hawai'i is a community service project co-founded by Hawaii photographers Laurie Breeden Callies of Baby Face Productions and Lisa Uesugi of Utopia Photography.   Its mission is to enhance and enrich the lives of children through the use of photography by providing them with the opportunity to work with professional photographers and to experience a photo session where they are not only the subjects but the photographers as well.

During the 12-week internship participants are professionally photographed in their communities, given cameras, trained in their use and provided a timeline for completion of a photo assignment, all of which culminates in a month-long gallery exhibit.   Their portraits are exhibited alongside those they took of their subjects (someone who made a difference in their lives).  At the end of the exhibit, participants receive both the portrait of themselves and their subjects, a hardbound coffee table book and DVD of their work.

Laurie and Lisa selected Parents and Children Together (PACT), one of Hawai'i's leading private non-profit family service agencies located in Honolulu's largest public housing complex, as ProjectFocus Hawaii's first beneficiary. Fourteen youths, ages 10 -17, from PACT's Community Teen Program were selected to participate in the 2005 ProjectFocus Hawai'i internship.

The month-long "Doorways" exhibit was installed at Dole Cannery in Honolulu and received extensive media coverage and widespread community and nationwide response.  Hawai'i Alliance For Arts Education, a member of The Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education, later invited participants to join their annual "Excellence in Arts" exhibit and as a result, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman also invited participants to exhibit their work at City Hall in February 2006.

The goal of ProjectFocus Hawai'i is to encourage children with needs (and their subjects) to express themselves through the use of photography and to use this medium as a vehicle for enhancing self esteem, self awareness and an understanding of the world in which they live.

The ProjectFocus Hawai'i theme "Doorways" is a metaphor suggesting a vehicle for the passage into a new phase of life, leaving behind the old and entering the new.  The goal is to stimulate new perspectives on ideas and thoughts as well as how one can perceive inner beauty beyond the physical image.

ProjectFocus Hawai'i is independently funded through monetary and in-kind donations received through the generous support of foundations and community and business leaders.

The book of the students' photography is available for purchase. Proceeds raised from the sales of the photo book will benefit PACT.  For more information, contact Laurie Callies at:

About PACT's Community Teen Program

Community Teen Program is a comprehensive youth service center for youth ages 7-18 who live in and around Honolulu's largest public housing complex, Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes. This after-school program promotes the development of healthy youth, families, and community with an abundance of activities and experiences for youth and family members including educational, recreational, community building, prevention of teen pregnancies and support services. Parents can participate in parenting education and family strengthening activities. Case management services are available for youth and families coping with poor school performance, truancy, and other difficulties. Activities like sports and study hall give youth supervised alternatives to drugs and gangs, and special events involve families as well.

Back to Table of Contents

Related Links:

ProjectFocus Hawai'i "Doorways" Online Exhibition:

PACT Hawai'i website:

Babyface Productions, Laurie Callies' website:

Utopia Photography, Lisa Uesugi's website:

Back to Table of Contents

A Special Message from Amazing Kids! for all you kids:

It's no secret...every person has an "amazing-ness" inside of them, just waiting to be discovered. (Sometimes we just need a little help in finding out what that "amazing-ness" is!)

If you are doing some amazing things too, we want to hear about it! Send us your stories about your amazing accomplishments, so we can tell the world just how amazing you are! We are always looking for new stories. And don't be shy! We'd love to hear from you!

Here's an idea you might want to try:


If you know someone who needs a little encouragement, why not tell them what you think is special about them? Maybe you can be the one to help them uncover their own special talents!

Amazing Kids! is looking for teens to be Amazing Teen Volunteers and Ambassadors. If you'd like to join Amazing Kids! in helping to spread the word, please email us at:


It's cool to be an Amazing Kid!

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