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Passion for photography helps Dallas teen get through tough times

It’s hard not to smile as Isaac Edwards exuberantly explains his love for photography during our Zoom call. “I love the action and the sport,” he said.

The 13-year-old was not only the winner of a Boys & Girls Club photo contest earlier this year, but he also had the opportunity to attend a photo training camp.

His last assignment? Shooting on the former Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware at the Star in Frisco. Not bad for a college student whose family life was turned upside down by the winter frost of last February.

Isaac and his mother, Stephanie Edwards, 48, lost their Grand Prairie home when pipes froze and burst. “We had knee deep water,” said Edwards. The house they rented was badly damaged and the family lost almost everything except their initiative.

Edwards, who is divorced from Isaac’s father, Kerrick Edwards, and Isaac stayed with relatives in North Dallas for a short time. But then they moved into a hotel to be closer to Isaac’s Charter School, Uplift Luna Preparatory Secondary in Deep Ellum, and Edwards’ job at Baylor Scott & White Hospital, where she is. office coordinator and certified medical assistant.

Isaac Edwards shows his mother, Stephanie Edwards, a portrait he took of her in one of the green spaces of their Dallas home.(Liesbeth Powers / Special Contributor)

What sparked Isaac’s photographic aspirations? “I was about 10 years old and mom would always say, ‘Let’s take a picture’ for this or that,” Isaac said.

Stephanie Edwards laughed. “It’s true,” she said. “Isaac would then say, ‘Again? “”

Little by little, he began to take an interest in photography. As a member of the Boys & Girls Club, Isaac entered a photo contest. He not only won the competition, but also got the added opportunity of Outschool, a non-profit organization that partners with the Boys & Girls Club to offer online classes for free.

Dallas teenager Isaac Edwards captured this image of former Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware training at the Star in Frisco.  Isaac received a surprise visit from Ware after winning a photo contest and attending a photo training camp.
Dallas teenager Isaac Edwards captured this image of former Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware training at the Star in Frisco. Isaac received a surprise visit from Ware after winning a photo contest and attending a photo training camp.(Isaac Edwards)

Outschool classes are partly funded by Stand Together, which describes itself as a “philanthropic community” to help provide Outschool scholarships.

Outschool invited Isaac to a four-session virtual training camp in photography.

“It’s going to brighten up my kid’s life,” Edwards said, as she and others got to work making sure Isaac could participate, despite living in a hotel. Outschool has helped remove some obstacles, including setting up a Wi-Fi connection for him. He also arranged for Isaac to attend his Zoom training camp from the sixth floor of the hotel every Saturday for a month.

“I wanted Isaac to understand that while everything may seem perfect, everything can stop in an instant, but you can never give up,” Edwards said.

She also persevered in improving their living conditions. With the help of a friendly apartment manager, they found an affordable place near the school and his work.

Photo boot camp helped Isaac complete his education and put him back to being himself, Edwards said.

Isaac Edwards, 13, shows off his edits in a photo he took of former Dallas Cowboys star DeMarcus Ware.  He had the chance to photograph Ware after a photo training camp with sports photographer and mentor Jay Gorodetzer.
Isaac Edwards, 13, shows off his edits in a photo he took of former Dallas Cowboys star DeMarcus Ware. He had the chance to photograph Ware after a photo training camp with sports photographer and mentor Jay Gorodetzer.(Liesbeth Powers / Special Contributor)

Jay Gorodetzer, Isaac’s Photography Boot Camp Mentor, is a former sports photographer and editor who now runs his own commercial photography business. During the training session, Gorodetzer taught Isaac about lighting, composition, focus, shutter speed and brightness.

“Isaac was incredibly excited to learn photography,” Gorodetzer said. “He seems to have a passion for it, especially sports and action photography.”

On the last day, Gorodetzer’s mission for Isaac was to go to the Star at Frisco and look for a white box.

Upon their arrival, accompanied by Charles English, President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas, Isaac found the box and a camera inside.

As they stood in front of the shiny new Canon camera, someone patted Edwards on the shoulder. She immediately recognized Ware, but Isaac said he wasn’t sure at first who the smiling, towering athlete was.

Dallas teen Isaac Edwards and former Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware at The Star in Frisco.  Isaac received a surprise visit from Ware after winning a photo contest and attending a photo training camp.
Dallas teen Isaac Edwards and former Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware at The Star in Frisco. Isaac received a surprise visit from Ware after winning a photo contest and attending a photo training camp.(Free thought)

“At that point,” said Edwards, “I looked up to the sky. After everything we had been through, I said, ‘Thank you my God, I haven’t given up.’ “

Ware, a former Boys & Girls Club member with an interest in photography himself, had been contacted by Stand Together to surprise Isaac.

The football pro has continued to keep in touch with the family since spring training camp. Its motto ? “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do, because you can do anything.”

Isaac is now a busy eighth grade student at Uplift. He is part of the Uplift Mentorship Program and also sings with the Concord Church Choir in Dallas.

“You can still find him on the Wednesday night and Sunday morning service taking pictures,” Edwards said.

How to help

For children ages 6-18, visit the Boys & Girls Club website at bgca.org/about-us/local-clubs.

For those who wish to support such youth programs, visit bgca.org/ways-to-give, outschool.com or standtogether.org.

Isaac Edwards and his mother, Stephanie Edwards, have rebounded after losing their home to frost damage last winter.
Isaac Edwards and his mother, Stephanie Edwards, have rebounded after losing their home to frost damage last winter.(Liesbeth Powers / Special Contributor)