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GPA-9 headed to Paris, funds raised

May 15, 2024

Students from the Gordon Parks Academy Raise Funds for Paris Trip

GPA-9 headed to Paris, funds raised

By Wilma Moore-Black

The Gordon Parks Academy’s nine students, known as the GPA-9, reached their financial goal and dream of traveling to Paris. Staff, sponsors, ARISE members and the GPA-9 will leave Wichita May 27 and return June 2.

 Dr. Michael Cheers is the brainchild behind the idea, and the GPA-9 will be like his junior pro photographers. Cheers, a San Jose State University professor who knew Gordon Parks, is creating a coffee table book called “Why I Needed Paris.” He’ll showcase Gordon Parks’ photography when he was on a LIFE magazine assignment in Paris back in the 1950s.

Since last August, the Gordon Parks Trailblazers Foundation, with the help of ARISE, the GPA-9 and their families and area supporters raised funds to cover their flight and hotel expenses.  GPA principal LaTonia Kennedy and GPA technology instructor and yearbook advisor s Mary Del Vecchio-Floro, led the charge with an extensive GoFundMe platform.  Kennedy and Floro will be going to Paris along with three other faculty members, student relatives and ARISE members.

On April 12-13, the students participated in a photography bootcamp with Cheers, who traveled to Wichita to get to better acquainted with the students. He shared photography tips, gave them feedback, and discussed what quality of photographs and videotaping was expected while in Paris.

A Fort Scott, KS native, Parks was a dreamer who used his nonviolent ways – the use of a camera – to fight inequality for everyone. The school is named after Parks. ARISE stands for African Americans Renewing Interest in Spirituals Ensemble, Incorporated (ARISE), a group of Kansas talented singers and storytellers who strives to educate all cultures about the significance of spirituals.

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