Paris Hart, the first student in her family to attend college, will study photojournalism at the UO with a scholarship created by Dan Wieden ’67.

Paris Hart first picked up a camera when she was 11 years old. It was her first year at Caldera, an arts organization serving at-risk youths that operates a summer camp on ninety acres near Sisters, Oregon founded by Dan Wieden ’67. This September, she’ll begin at the UO as a freshman and a pre-journalism major at the SOJC as the first Caldera Scholar.

The scholarship was made possible thanks to a gift from Wieden, advertising entrepreneur and co-founder of legendary Portland advertising firm Wieden + Kennedy. At the time the scholarship was created, Wieden said “”I have a long relationship with the School of Journalism and Communication. I know the staff. I think they have the ability to turn these kids on.”

When Hart, an all-star state rugby player, learned that she’d earned the scholarship, she was “excited beyond belief,” she says.

“I’m thankful that Caldera cared so much about my education and wanted to help me succeed. I feel honored to have such a great opportunity, especially since i will be the first person in my family to attend a university.”

Hart has been a member of the Caldera program since middle school, beginning in 2003. Through the program, she was “introduced to the art of photography and learned to express herself in a positive way.”

She gained substantial experience in journalism through the program and other experiences while in school. In 2008, she became a photography apprentice through the Caldera program, studying year-round with a professional photographer, and “mastering my discipline as well as learning how to document events, people, and places,” she says.

“For the last year and a half I have been able to photo-document my niece’s entire life. In 2009, I was the editor of a magazine organization that worked with Caldera called Re:Active. Much of my photography, artwork, and writing were also featured in the magazine as well. That same year I was a co-host for Caldera’s radio show that was aired live in WK radio in the Wieden + Kennedy building. I planned out each show, decided what music would be played, what people were being interviewed, what the focus would be, and who would be talking.”

This year, after graduating from Leadership and Entrepreneurship Public Charter High School in Portland, Hart spent her last summer as a camper and her first as a counselor in training

“I learned how to ‘lead from behind,’ which was different than how I used to lead,” she says. “During activities, I would encourage the younger campers to figure things out for themselves, rather than just telling them the answer or the ‘right’ way. It was powerful watching them discover their own strengths and more importantly, realize that they could do it on their own. Many of them had never had that kind of opportunity and I was glad to help inspire them.“

In her scholarship application essay to the SOJC, Hart wrote “While working with Caldera + Wieden and Kennedy, I have been inspired by Dan Wieden and his ability to use his power in advertising to promote social justice. I want to be a photojournalist so I can help bring awareness to the disparities between groups of people in our communities. The first step to change is acknowledging there is a problem, and I hope to be a voice for change.”

She says she’s grateful Wieden, not only for the scholarship, but for his ongoing support of her goals. “… he is the kind of person that if i ever needed his help for anything, he would drop whatever he is doing in an instant to make sure everything was okay and do anything he could. And that’s not because I’m special. He would do that for any youth who has ever come through his program. He has never let me down.

Like other youth participating in the Caldera program, Hart has spent time in Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland office during the school year.

“I have spent a lot of time down at his agency learning everything i can about creative innovative advertising. We usually give speeches together at fundraisers, and sometimes I introduce him at certain events such as when he was inducted into the UO business hall of fame 2010.”

As for following in Wieden’s footsteps as a student at the UO, Hart has this to say: “I’ve always been a duck fan and UO has always been my number-one choice.”

Read more about the Caldera Scholars Program: http://giving.uoregon.edu/node/1347