Kent ISD — Angel Vargas, an Empower U Goodwill student from Puerto Rico, loves to learn about and explore his new home, the greater Grand Rapids area. Empower U instructor Michael Spagnuolo said students have the opportunity to select places they would like to visit based on the program’s curriculum, and Angel often picks such places as the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
If you see Angel around town, chances are he’ll have his phone out snapping pictures. Angel’s passion is photography, which was evident as he directed the photoshoot for this story.
What is your dream? I want to be a photographer, specifically a travel photographer where you can travel the world and try the food.”
Why is this your dream? “While I was in Puerto Rico … it was when I was watching video stuff on YouTube, I found video gaming. … I (watched the video on YouTube for a game called ‘Dead Rising,’ … It was about a photojournalist. He is willing to risk his life to get the story and to get the evidence about what the government is doing to its people. He … wants to prove to the people what is happening because they deserve to know the truth.
“I wondered if there was a ‘Dead Rising’ movie and I checked and there were two: part one and part two. It was really good and I was actually inspired by that.
“Also, I realized that everyone has a talent. Before I found that video game on YouTube, I found I had this talent for taking really good pictures. I get good angles and stuff. We had this cooking class and we went to this farm and we had to pick strawberries for a strawberry milkshake. I took pictures of the view and I was grabbing the berries and I would take pictures of myself holding the berries. I showed them to my teacher and he was really impressed with my talent.”
How are school and your teachers helping you achieve your dream? “At Goodwill, they are teaching you about the responsibility you will have when you get a job, such as waking up early, and that there are different ways to get here. They also give you advice on how to be more independent and do things on your own, such as using the public bus. I use the bus (The Rapid) by myself to get (to Goodwill) and also when it’s time to leave. I cross the street by myself and I use the city bus all by myself to get home.”
Where do you hope your photography will lead you? “I look at it like this, for example: imagine that camera was actually mine (Angel points to a camera on the table). When I’m done working at Goodwill, or maybe (when) I have a day off, I will use the city bus to take me to downtown Grand Rapids so I can take pictures of the city and maybe the lake. I’m also going to go to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the (Grand Rapids) Art Museum.
“I did check on YouTube to see if they had photography books and I found the perfect one, “Photography from Scratch” (or “Fotografia desde cero” by Spanish photographer and YouTube content creator Kike Amaiz).The guy said the book will teach you a lot of things about photography, from step zero to becoming a professional one. I saved up a lot of money for it and I bought it.”
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