At the darkroom that I use (Gallery 44, in Toronto) there is a similar program that has been going on for at least a few years now. Itīs called Outreach
(http://www.gallery44.org/education/outreach2006.htm), and itīs aimed at teens who are having a tough time of it.
Iīve been in the darkroom many times when theyīre in as well, and it always impresses me. Some of these kids look pretty rough around the edges. I recognize alot from around town - squeegee kids, panhandlers, etc. And here they are, puttering away in the darkroom, going over each otherīs prints and contact sheets, loupes to their eyes scrutinizing a negative to see if itīs sharp... I love it. They go about their business, and other members go about theirs. Itīs all perfectly īnormalī, which I think helps a great deal. I donīt know how much īnormalīalot of these teens get in life.
Thereīs no onus to print on fibre paper, or shoot with a Hassleblad. Grants pay for the majority of their supplies, and I expect theyīve got some deal worked out with one of the labs for negative processing. Someone puts in a lot of effort - I donīt know enough about it - but it all seems to run smoothly.
I canīt imagine anyone arguing that this is *not* a great thing. I would hope similar programs exist in cities through the world. Whether itīs photography, painting, or jazz dance for all I care - It all falls under the umbrella of being a good experience. Kids like these desperately need more good experiences, on top of the fundamentals like food and shelter.
This is where grants from large companies and organizations prove their worth. Small amounts of money can make a really significant difference in programs like these.