Melissa Urfirer

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption=”Melissa Urfirer, 17, started Shoot For Success to help kids at a homeless shelter learn to express themselves.”]

When kids experience tragedy, they don’t express themselves as easily as adults do. Seventeen-year-old Melissa Urfirer saw that when she taught poetry at a local homeless shelter. Some kids didn’t take to it very easily, but their feelings were brought out when Melissa brought out disposable cameras.

The kids eagerly captured the scenes of their lives, writing quick cathartic captions about what they saw. Melissa saw the shots as art. She also saw how the photos represented their ability to dream.

That marked the beginning of a program Melissa started during her freshman year of high school called Shoot For Success. The images have since been published in a book, “As I See It…” and some of the photos have been displayed in museums and galleries around New York. The organization has received a prestigious grant that allows it to offer scholarships to some of the kids who contribute, really allowing them to aim for success in life.

Update: Watch the Live interview

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26 Responses to Melissa Urfirer

  1. Kati says:

    such a great story … what made you decide to get involved with a homeless shelter? We had to do community service in high school which i think is something that all high schools should do. I am now continuing my love of service in college.

  2. Mike says:

    People helping people through their gifts is the way the world should work. Way to go Melissa!

  3. Mitch says:

    i love you we could work together

  4. Robin says:

    Homeless Children?

    It must really suck to bne homeless as a child. I was homeless for two years as a young adult and that was hard enough, but my fault

    How did these children wind up as homeless? Does no one care about children anymore? Are there no orphanges in America? Or are they simply ‘disposable useless eaters’ to the bulk of America?

  5. Pingback: A New Kind of Youth Ministry » Blog Archive » Young People Who Rock

  6. Pam says:

    What a wonderful girl. I agree that all kids should do some community service in high school. It would open their eyes and they might be surprised to find that they are greater kids than they thought they were! It’s amazing how one person can change the lives of so many other people. Good for you Melissa. You will always be a successful, grounded, good person. And by “successful”, I mean have a good fulfilling life!

  7. todd says:

    You are changing young lives and that comes from the heart. You probably have no idea how you may affecting these kids but you can bet they will remember the time and talent you shared with them and grow up to be better adults because of it.

  8. dul says:

    it realy feels bad about been are homeless child

  9. wayneski says:


    How about the LAZY , DO NOTHING ADULTS in our society? Yeah,
    the ones that CREATED THIS MESS to begin with. Really?

    The children will save this world???


  10. Andrew says:

    Melissa – what you are doing is amazing! How did you become interested in homeless children?

  11. Esther says:

    It’s incredible that you did all of this in high school. DId you do it for community service requirements at your high school? Do you think that community service requirements for high school students is a good idea?

  12. Lotche says:

    Homeless children, that must have been so sad. Did you ever feel like it was too emotionally difficult to do this work? I am so impressed that you kept doing it for 3 years.

  13. Steven says:

    First Melissa, I want to say “you really rock.” What a great idea this is. How did you get the idea to use cameras with the children?

  14. stan turecki says:


    I’m pretty sure you are missing the point. by getting kids involved in service the idea is to hopefully end up fostering a spirit of helping out int he community that will carry on when they are adults. it’s not about relying on kids to ‘save the world’ it’s about ‘starting them young’.

  15. Anna says:

    My dad was really poor growing up an he made it to college thanks to an uncle that took him to eat at his house during the weekends. He was middle class and eventhough he never paid for college he motivated my dad to get out of poverty and fight for a better life as he knew that extreme poverty was not the only option for him. You are that uncle to all of these kids

  16. penny says:

    great job many homeless children but so much red tape

    to adopt a child.why should it cost so much to give a child a loving home.sometimes $$$$$$$ signs is all they see i think

  17. Lisa Thomas says:

    What a great idea. Were you scared to go into a shelter area? Were you afraid of the kids ever? Your interview was really great too. I loved when you talked about the kids artwork. Congrats.

  18. dionte says:

    i think it is great what she is doing for these young needy kids. Shes only 17 and she puts a bunch of kids in front of her own needs. This story is quite inspiring!!!

  19. Lisa says:

    Melissa – what wonderful work you do! Your Uncle Steve would have been so proud.

  20. kayla says:

    Wow, that is an incredible thing that you did Melissa. I would have probably done the same thing. Helping kids realize that it is ok to express yourself, no matter who you are is something that you don’t find often. Your right about the fact that kids do have a harder way of expressing theirselves compared to adults. Doing something like this will inspire kids all over the world of all ages.
    A student of East Middle School

  21. Deddrick says:

    I think that she is very good at what she does your uncle steve would be very happy.

  22. Marissa says:

    That’s a wonderful idea. I think that it was so sweet to develop a program that promotes success for the homeless children. When one of my dad’s friend’s daughters died, their whole family no longer really expressed themselves. It was truly sad to see how hurt and lonely they were. Thank you Melissa for helping others who needed to express themselves to be successful, because some people do not know how to help them.

    Middle School Student

  23. Subash says:

    This is quite an inspiring story. There are people who wants but not finding ways to do such works…. and still quite a lot of people who needs such helps…

  24. Sarah k. says:

    Those Girls are amazing, good thing they are helping out, mabey I should try…………………………..

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Hey, you really do rock. Not many girls in high school could do this i think. You went into a homeless shelter, actually went there and instead of being scared you sat with them, and taught them something. You inspired me to try to do that too. How old were you when you went into your first shelter or class with homeless kids? I am in 10th, maybe next year I’ll get some friends and parents and try this if we all can get comfortable with the idea. I’ll try. Thank you, really.

  26. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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