Voice of the Mid-Columbia | Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, Washington, Wednesday. Novenmber 11, 2009

Tri-City nonprofit to offer after-school classes for 'at-potential' students

By Drew Foster, Herald staff writer

RICHLAND -- Martha Rosenberry spent much of her first year teaching photography part time at New Horizons High School asking herself, "What am I doing?"

Now she's asking, "What more can I do?"

After initially focusing solely on photography, Rosenberry, who owns the photo processing and restoration company Perfect Image, began to weave etiquette and leadership lessons into her instruction. She became convinced her students needed another layer of learning.

Rosenberry's decision to also teach life skills led to creation of the nonprofit Perfect Image Leadership Foundation, which will begin offering a 30-session after-school curriculum for "at-potential students," as she calls them, at New Horizons later this month.

Martha at work

Herald - Martha Rosenberry, owner of Perfect Image in Richland, is setting up the nonprofit Perfect Image Leadership Program, which will offer after-school programs to at-risk youths to teach them life and leadership skills.

" 'At-risk' is so negative," she said Wednesday in explaining her terminology after making a presentation to the Port of Benton commissioners. She had asked the commissioners for future support, which she said could include furniture or office space.

Initial courses will be offered at New Horizons, but Rosenberry hopes to expand the program to school districts throughout the Tri-Cities. Sessions will emphasize self-esteem, teamwork, leadership and professional skills many students don't learn in the classroom or at home.

"The educational system is teaching to the test," she said, adding, "They really do need social skills beyond the classroom environment."

Those skills can be as simple as a handshake.

When many students first enter her classroom, they offer flat, meager and limp handshakes that barely embrace a few fingers. One of the first lessons she teaches is how to give a proper handshake, a shake that nearly envelops a person's hand and is complete with eye contact.

Kenneth Byers, the foundation's secretary treasurer, expects the program's costs to reach about $850,000 over four years. So far, about $15,000 has been secured in grants, and Byers and Rosenberry plan to pursue more grants and private contributions.

"We're thinking Bill Gates; don't think small," Byers said, explaining how the group plans to ask the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for funding.

The program initially is planned to run after school three or four days a week, with each day focusing on a different discipline. Sessions will last between 60 and 90 minutes. Rosenberry expects about 70 participants. Parents also will be involved, taking classes on computer software and other programs that can help them advance professionally.

Including Rosenberry, four trainers will lead the sessions. A fifth is working toward the goal.

Cynthia Rodriguez, an 18-year-old senior at New Horizons, has been in Rosenberry's photography class for two years and is an intern for the foundation and working toward becoming a trainer. Rodriguez said the programs at New Horizons have given her hope, and she looks forward to spreading that positive feeling to other teens.

"Before going into New Horizons, I didn't think we had people who cared about the situations in kids' lives today," she said.

Rodriguez added that she's learned through Rosenberry's classes to focus on what she needs to do to better her own life, instead of just accepting what's thrust her way and putting other people's lives ahead of her own.

"I'm learning to say no," she said.

Rosenberry hopes the foundation's after-school programs can produce more young adults like Rodriguez. "I am so passionate about this," she said.

For more information, go to www.perfectimageleadership.org.

Drew Foster: 585-7207; dfoster@tricityherald.com

back to the Perfect Image Leadership Foundation