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Lisa Lisa & College Jam

Posted by seattle

Okay, I’m totally dating myself (and subjecting you to bad puns), but I can’t help it.  Whenever Lisa Bontje and Lisa Merrill are on a photo shoot, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam just pops into my head!  And while some of you might debate the brilliance of 80’s gems like “Lost in Emotion” and “Head to Toe,” you simply cannot miss the vibrancy of the students captured by Lisa and Lisa in a photo shoot with SVP Investee, College Access Now.

Through their volunteer project, Lisa and Lisa created images to help build CAN’s visual identity, better tell their story and inspire others to join in supporting their mission.  CAN empowers students from low-income families to access, enroll, and graduate from college at rates equal to their more advantaged peers – and what better way to visualize that mission than through the students themselves?

College Access Now Photos by Lisa Merrill and Lisa Bontje 2

Lisa and Lisa worked with CAN’s development team to photograph 16 of their students.  They selected locations that reflected the students’ passions and CAN’s mission – including five different high schools, three college campuses, a science lab, a music room, an electronics workshop and athletic fields.

“Lisa and Lisa were genuinely interested in the lives of CAN’s students,” says Development Director, Audra Rutherford.  “During the photo shoots, they asked questions to make the students comfortable, so much so, the camera seemed to disappear — only it didn’t.”


Once the camera work was done, CAN paired the portraits with “who I am” poems that the students wrote and displayed them on six-foot banners at their annual fundraiser – each banner featuring a student’s unique story.  We’ve shared a few of the banners below.  You can see all of them here.

CAN Posters for Website

“Sharing student stories is a powerful tool in communicating our impact,” explains Audra. “Coupling student stories with strong photos is even more impactful. Lisa and Lisa were able to provide CAN will hundreds of beautiful and authentic photos of individual students as well as candid photos of our program – bringing it to life.”

As for Lisa and Lisa, they got a front row seat to CAN’s powerful work.  “Before I started this project I didn’t know the scope of CAN’s impact in our community,” says Lisa M.  “They support nearly 1000 students at six Seattle public high schools and college campuses in Washington and across the country.”  Eight-five percent of CAN’s students enroll in college, as compared to only 52% of their peers nation-wide.

College Access Now Photos by Lisa Merrill and Lisa Bontje

122_CAN_Bontje2Lisa M has done many projects like this with SVP Investees, including one with the Denise Louie Education Center last year, but this was the first Investee project that she and Lisa B worked on together.  Lisa and Lisa met through SVP’s Family Service Group a number of years ago and discovered a shared passion for photography and travel.  (They also recently took a photography trip through Southeast Asia together.)

“Lisa M has taken me under her wing and been an amazing mentor and friend to me,” shares Lisa B.  On the CAN project, Lisa M took the lead, with Lisa B shadowing and assisting.  (Audra caught our Lisa’s in action below.) Since then Lisa B completed another solo volunteer photography project with Eastside Pathways.

Lisa and Lisa in Action2

Lisa M encourages SVP Partners who are interested in volunteering to consider a team approach, creating opportunities to share skills and information while making great friends along the way!  (In fact, SVP is has a couple of formal opportunities to do that right now through SVP’s Finance Team and Human Resources Team.)

Learn More & Get Involved

Just click the following links to learn more about College Access Now, read news from their graduating seniors, check out Lisa Merrill and Lisa Bontje’s photography, and find ways to volunteer your unique skills with SVP Investees!

Pop music commentary and thoughts about whether Lisa and Lisa should start their own band can also be added below. 😉

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