High school presents unique challenges for most people. In addition to maintaining their grades, participating in extracurricular activities, and building a social life, many teens struggle with their mental health and self-image. For some local teens, this part of life also fuels and aggravates anxiety – another unwanted companion on their graduation journey.
It was a desire to resolve these issues that led to an inclusive social club called the Norton Modeling Team (NMT) to live.
The club was founded by Norton High School senior Alura Mead in early September with a clear goal: to help people build self-esteem and overcome anxiety until they achieve self-acceptance.
“Growing up I always had really bad anxiety, and people picked on me and all of that good stuff,” Mead said. “I really want to do something to help other kids my age not have this anxiety from people picking on them.”
The NMT is not directly associated with Norton High School, but runs free photography sessions for local high school students at various locations in Summit County. Teenagers attending high school in Barberton, Woodridge and St. Vincent-St. Mary made her debut in numerous shoots.
After having his senior photos taken at Chadwick Photography in Norton, Mead explained his idea to photographer Chad Coots, who volunteered to take the club photos for free. Coots has been the Mead family photographer for seven years and has other pro bono photos in the Norton area.
Mead’s mother, Tiffany, also plays an important role within the NMT. Tiffany helps her daughter go through the logistical steps of finding locations, emailing businesses, and choosing an appropriate number of models for each shoot. With Mead, Tiffany, Coots and the parents of almost all of the models attending the sessions, space is often at a premium.
“We have to remember that we don’t just have one person,” Tiffany said. “We must at least count for each person there are two [additional people] and… I don’t want to make a big show of it, but I also would never tell a parent that they can’t go.
Over the past few months, the club has taken photos at many local businesses including Gypsy Grace and the Vintage Goat and Interbelt Nite Club. The photos and story of each student are shared on the club’s Facebook page. These flagship posts are written by students and approved by them and their parents before being published, according to Tiffany.
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One of those students is Phoenix Walker, a junior from Norton High School, who participated in the NMT as a model and temporary assistant for lighting and camera work.
“I’ve always really enjoyed taking pictures, and thought it would be really good for boosting my confidence and it sure is,” Walker said. She has met many students from other schools and some from her own that she had not yet interacted with, but says her favorite part of the NMT is visiting new places she might not have explored. other.
Running the model club isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, according to Mead. Negative comments from random people online sometimes appear on their Facebook posts. Mead and Tiffany diligently monitor NMT posts during their early days online and try to remove unnecessarily harsh comments as soon as possible.
“When kids and their parents look back at the photos, they don’t have to open the comments and be like, ‘Oh, they’re saying negative things about this,’” Mead explained. “And then they won’t want to come back.”
Fortunately, the rude comments are far outnumbered by the positive comments the NMT receives online and in person from students and their families. The club’s most recent session at One of A Kind Pet Rescue is coming out soon and they now have a mall photoshoot in the works.
Mead plans to continue leading the NMT while attending Kent State University next year.
Contact Beacon Journal reporter Tawney Beans at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TawneyBeans.