Ever wanted to help your community? Stephanie Engle was able to contribute locally and globally just by doing what she loves. Stephanie started horseback riding at the young age of 6. By 11, her beloved horse was to be put down. Stephanie wanted to remember her horse through photos but she didn’t have any. From that moment, Stephanie has started her love in photography. She began by going to local horse competitions and taking photos so others would never have to suffer what she did. Her art gained recognition and soon she started selling her photos for charity. Stephanie created the nonprofit organization, RAISE. Her photo profits are donated to a Guatemalan orphanage. She has now raised 10,000 dollars and hopes for 100,000! Stephanie’s hobbies have developed into a way to help the world. She encourages others to make a positive change. Now here is a short interview with Amazing Kid of the Month! Stephanie Engle!
AK: When did you start horseback riding?
SE: I began horseback riding just after I turned six years old.
AK: What is your favorite thing about horseback riding?
SE: My favorite thing about riding is definitely the thrill of competition and how the sport pushes me past my comfort zone. By nature, I have always been rather shy and timid. But in order to ride well, I have come to realize I cannot limit myself by worrying—I have to be bold and take risks. They don’t always pay off, but accepting that defeat gracefully is another valuable lesson riding has taught me.
AK: When did you first become interested in photography? Why?
SE: When I was eleven years old, my pony Winnie had to be put down. In fear I would somehow forget him, I frantically searched through my things to find something I could remember him by. Upon realizing I had no photos of him, I decided to ensure the same thing wouldn’t happen to other little girls like me by taking photos at local horse competitions. Everyone thought it was a fleeting hobby of mine, but from the beginning, I foresaw how much photography could potentially change my life as it has.
AK: What is your favorite thing to photograph? Why?
SE: I love photographing people who have some sort of unusual quality about them, such as many freckles or unique eyes. I enjoy showcasing those qualities and demonstrating the beauty of them, especially for people who feel self-conscious about these particular traits.
AK: What do you love most about being a photographer?
SE: It’s really difficult to isolate my favorite aspect, as I love everything about photography. If I have to choose though, I suppose my favorite thing about being a photographer is the fulfillment taking photos instills me with. Taking the photos excites me, as I love seeing the finished products—good or bad—and just studying them, knowing I am gradually improving. Moreover, I love seeing people’s expressions when they receive them. Knowing that I can help others by doing something I truly enjoy is wonderful.
AK: What or who inspired you to donate all the money you made selling photographs?
SE: After a successful stint selling my photos for profit, I realized that the money I was making could really make a difference for other people. Specifically, I decided to aid Guatemalan orphanage run by a friend of my family after hearing her many tragic stories about the orphans and civilians of Guatemala.
AK: Please explain RAISE and your coffee table book photos of orphans in detail.
SE: RAISE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding a Guatemalan orphanage that is overseen by another organization, The Love of Patricia. My sister, my mother, and I run RAISE, which has raised about $10,000 thus far through donations and the selling of my photos.
In April 2011, I was fortunate enough to go visit the orphanage in Sacatepequez, Guatemala. I documented my stay through photography and videography, which has lead to the production of a photo book and a documentary to be featured on the upcoming RAISE website I will design.
The photos encapsulate the plight of the Guatemalan people and demonstrate their ability to overcome their adversity. By selling this coffee table photo book, which we aspire to distribute nationwide, we hope to raise enough money to aid the orphans and to reform the legal system in Guatemala that renders the adoption process almost impossible.
AK: Explain any other interests/talents you have.
SE: I am impassioned by just about anything artistic—drawing, painting, even video editing and website building. I also really enjoy creative writing and reading.
AK: What advice do you have for kids looking to make a difference?
SE: I think that in order to be successful, you must dream big but think rationally. You may want to change the world, but unfortunately you cannot help everyone. By starting small and targeting one area or demographic, however, you can still make a huge difference and lay a strong foundation for you to pursue bigger projects.
Most importantly, make sure whatever you’re doing is genuine and something you really care about. Try utilizing your passions to help people, like I have done with my photography—it’ll make your endeavor more enjoyable and fulfilling.
AK: What goals do you have for the future? (both professional and personal)
SE: I would like to expand my repertoire to include more styles of photography, such as wedding photography and photojournalism. Ideally I aspire to be a sort of “chameleon” photographer who can shoot anything well, with work featured internationally in magazines and galleries. I hope to raise $100,000 for RAISE in the process so that I can tackle the legal system in Guatemala and amend the corrupt adoption and education process. I aim to do all of this while still competing at horse shows and attending one of my top choice colleges.
Personally, I am learning to drive and hoping to take up French to better identify with one of my photography idols, Patrick Demarchelier. I intend to keep pushing my boundaries and trying new things each day.
AK: List any honors/awards/accomplishments
SE: Scholastic Arts and Writing –Silver Key Award, Photography
Palo Alto Weekly Photo Contest – 2nd Prize
United States Equestrian Federation – Top 30 Nationally multiple years
United States Equestrian Federation – Top 10 Regionally multiple years
- Teen Ink
- Amazing Kids Magazine
- Chronicle of the Horse
- Showbiz Magazine
- Sidelines Magazine
- Equestrian Magazine
- Equestrian Life
- Phelps Media Group
- National Honor Society
- National Young Leaders Conference
- National Society of High School Scholars
- Stanford EPGY Program
- CTY Johns Hopkins Program
AK: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SE: I would just like to thank my family, for their support and the Hillstrom family, who run The Love of Patricia organization, for their kindness. I would also like to thank Clarissa Ngo, my writing instructor, for her creative ideas and ability to think big—RAISE would likely not possess as much potential as it does without her inspiration.