Kayla Andrus: Faces of the First Tee August 2020

As a beginner I was intimidated learning to play golf and later competing in tournaments. The more I practiced, the more my confidence grew. I joined the golf team at Mount Carmel Academy in my sophomore year. With hard work and perseverance, I became captain my senior year. One of the first core values I learned in the First Tee, is to stay Optimistic of the potential future results regardless of the current situation. This is a value I will take with me this upcoming first year of college at Loyola University, where I will be the newest player on their golf team. As far as I can remember, I have always been amazed at what happens behind the scenes of my favorite TV shows and movies. There is a certain beauty to telling stories through the eyes of a photographer or filmmaker’s lens. So, naturally when I started high school, I fully emerged myself into all things film and photography. For the past 5 years I devoted myself to producing, directing, editing, photographing memorable moments in my high school sporting events, masses, plays and news segments. It was then I realized my passion for life was to become a movie director/producer. Throughout my two journeys, I have learned to incorporate the many core values, inspired from First Tee, one being sportsmanship. I have met many great photographers and filmmakers whom I respect and have opened many doors for me. I found the film and photography community in New Orleans to be extremely supportive. Many of my mentors have invited me on movie sets and photo shoots to film behind the scenes footage or stand as a production assistant. At 16, I earned my certification in adobe photoshop and adobe premier pro which allows me to edit photos and video. This certification led to my collaborative work with New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Video Access Center with personal assistance from Sundance film festival artists Garrett Bradley to create my First independence short film “kinks!” Another one of my creations is a book published and written by New Orleans Youth from 826! New Orleans. Each of the stories in this book have been centered around photos I took from scenes around the city. I was amazed how they turned my photos into stories in a book titled “Don’t Open That Door”. At 17, I was given the opportunity to be one of the youngest photo editors to work for the 25th annual Essence Festival hosted in New Orleans. My past work history has proven to others my ability to be responsible, reliable and honest with the capacity to make good judgements. This landed me a job working backstage with all access passes to interviews, concerts, keynote speakers, and lounges including being in the presence of our former First Lady Michelle Obama. An honor I will never forget. Another memorable honor was receiving press clearance on Mardi Gras Day to capture our Mayor Latoya Cantrell toasting Mardi Gras crews as they passed by Gallier Hall. In my strive to continue giving back to the community, I offer many nonprofit organizations services free of charge. One in particular I am especially proud of, is Geaux Girl magazine. I am currently a board member and have had the pleasure of shooting a cover photo for this amazing nonprofit magazine run by girls for girls. Here I am able to have a voice for other young girls such as myself and I get the opportunity to interview locals and nationwide stars. This experience pushes me to continue to give back to the community and stay humble and kind. As a videographer, I recently conducted interviews on the red carpet with incoming local, state and city representatives at the New Orleans Annual Special Needs Ball. I also interviewed many of the special needs guests and their families asking the question, what does this special needs ball mean to them? Their answers touched my heart, it was an experience that will forever change the way I view someone with special needs. I also am a Youth Ambassador for the New Orleans Museum of Art. Here, I work together with museum artists, curators and staff members creating programs geared towards expanding the world of art for teens. In all my accomplishments I’m satisfied knowing I have made such an impact on others life, but my goal is to continue working towards making the future better. It is this drive and determination that the First Tee has helped to build within me. The biggest lesson that resonated with me from photography is that fundamental understanding of it. With “Photo” meaning “light” and ”graphy” meaning “to draw” the practice of photography is to draw with light. I’ve taken that lesson to heart, remembering to always find the light and draw it out of every situation. Faces of the First Tee portraits: New Orleans Snapshots by Andrew J. Cohoon