Focus on the Mission

Focus on the Mission is an annual diversity and leadership program that incorporates the art of photography and challenges tri-county high school students to address the role of multiculturalism in society and their own lives.  Since its inception in 1995, nearly 1000 students from Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties have experienced hands-on diversity and leadership training through the program’s creative activities and dialogue sessions, and exciting photographic field trips.


Focus on the Mission is designed for students in the 9-12th grades.  Partner schools nominate students to participate. A list of partner schools can be found here


Students attend one session every 2 weeks during the spring for a total of 4 sessions. The class runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m and is located at Focus: HOPE. Students are excused from school to participate.  


Call Annette Vanover at 313.494.4376 or email
Focus on the Mission program overview and application can be found here




In 2012, Focus: HOPE published a 164-page book featuring a collection student photography in Focus on the Mission: Visions of Diversity.  Hundreds of images were juried by a group of photographers who mentor these youths.  It was designed by two graphic designers from College for Creative Studies, Susan LaPorte and Megan Deal, who volunteered their time and talent for this project. The book costs $19.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. It can be purchased at our main office, 1355 Oakman Boulevard or ordered by calling 313.494.4376. 


Each year, 60 students from a wide range of ethnicities, socioeconomic levels, cultures, races, and faiths come together for four day-long sessions. They experience the rare opportunity to learn directly from their peers and their adult mentors, all of whom are local professional photographers or art educators. Youth participate in activities that provide a platform for meaningful and productive conversation about topics related to multiculturalism, self-identity, leadership, local community and current world events, and teen issues.

Students also explore creative self-expression through assignments in black and white photography in session and at home. These assignments encourage participants to think critically about their lives and their communities, and to understand the richness of Detroit’s historic past and its colorful tapestry of the present.

Students face their preconceived notions of race and culture, and courageously take steps to dismantle the barriers that have historically divided our communities. This is a prize one cannot place a value on!

Focus on the Mission culminates with a celebratory reception and photography exhibit featuring the stunning black and white images captured through the eyes of these remarkable teens. Upon its run at Focus: HOPE, the exhibit travels for display to local venues.

Focus on the Mission’s goals are to:
•    Create an understanding and respect for cultural differences
•    Strengthen students’ understanding of their own culture
•    Encourage positive interaction among diverse individuals
•    Develop leadership and teamwork skills
•    Encourage self-esteem and confidence through creative expression
•    Build positive youth-adult partnerships
•    Introduce students to cultural and historic sites of Detroit

Focus on the Mission is an award winning program, having received the 2001 Great Lakes Community Arts Award for excellence as given by the Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies. In 2002, Focus on the Mission was featured on WXYZ-TV’s “From the Heart” hosted by Erik Smith.

To view the Focus on the Mission 2013 student photos, click here.