AKRON, Ohio - Nicole Bozickovich says when she started working at STEAM Academy in Akron two years ago, she quickly realized how many students were not able to have their portraits taken.
"We had school picture day and they offered it, the school offered it to each student, and I had asked in second grade that year, I said who here is taking their school photo today and only two students raised their hands," said Bozickovich.
The art teacher says she was heartbroken to learn that many parents opted out because they could not afford the portraits.
"A school portrait is something that you can look forward to forever. I know a lot of people who actually have their school portraits framed," said Bozickovich.
A graduate of The Cleveland Institute of Art, with a focus on photography, Bozickovich believes having a school portrait means more to the students and their families than simply having something to hang on a wall or in a keepsake album.
So this year she reached out to her Alma Mater to see if she could borrow a camera to do the portraits herself.
"They took it one more step further and we actually got volunteers from the institute to come out and help photograph all the students so we photographed all 175 students," she said.
"It kind of made me cry because it made me think about other parents in my situation at the time you know they have never had a photo taken, a family photo or even just a picture of their child, so it warmed my heart over for her to actually take and do that for the students because you touched a lot of hearts," said Ashanta Terrell, whose two daughters were among the students who got photos.
Terrell says it also created a bonding moment for herself and her daughters.
"My kids, they hardly ever get a chance to dress up, so for them to dress up and get their hair done all nice and dress up and put on jewelry and actually have a picture of that was actually very special to them."
"It gives you that chance to spend more time with them get to you know the different things they like because, for me I pick out their clothes all the time on a daily basis and for them it gave each of them their own personality," said Terrell.
Bozickovich credits an Akron printing company, Simply Color Lab, with providing each of the students one 8x10, two 5x7s, and four wallet sized photos, also at no cost to them.
She says the day the photos came in, she could see the impact.
"I wanted to make sure the students realized and they knew that they were important enough to be captured in a photograph. When you see like a portrait of somebody it's normally somebody that's really famous or important, so when the students had their photo taken they definitely had that confidence. They knew that they were important to have their photo taken, some of them were coming in with a suit on, little kindergarteners, things like that," said Bozickovich.
"I had a sixth grader that came up to me and said to me 'Miss B I look beautiful,' and I was like yes you do. You know so you could definitely see the amount of confidence they had just by looking at themselves," she added.
"I grew up in foster care so I got bounced around a lot. I think I was in fifth grade the first time I had my picture taken and my grandmother paid for that to happen. She took me and got my hair done and picked out something special for me to wear, so I figure this would be something very special to my daughters, it's special to me as well," said Terrell.