At the round barn at Willow Springs Garden in Kronenwetter, Wisconsin, high school graduates lined up to get their photos taken to commemorate their amazing achievement.
For most of these students, it’s the first time they’ve ever had their pictures professionally taken. That’s because they grew up in the foster care system and didn’t have as many opportunities as other students.
Part-time photographer Tamara Niewolny provides these photoshoot sessions for free to foster children, because she wants to make sure these kids have memories of their graduation day that they can cherish forever.
Niewolny knows how tough the experience can be, considering she was once a foster kid herself.
Her foster journey began when she was just three years old.
“It started with my mother driving me to Hillcrest, which was the place you wait for placement,” she recalled. “And then she had me get out of the car and she drove away.”
They searched for a long time for the right family for her, and along the way she sadly suffered from abuse.
While she was a teenager, one of the last foster moms she had gave her great advice. She told her that she needs to learn how to love herself before she can understand what it’s like to be loved. This piece of advice really resonated with Niewolny and she still thinks about it to this day.
One thing that she doesn’t have from her days in foster care are photos to look back on, which is why she decided to give seniors in foster care an experience she never had.
She decided to call her photography project ’17 Pillows,’ after the 17 placements she had been in.
The graduates receive complete makeovers with new wardrobes and hair and makeup for their photoshoots.
Click here to learn more about ‘17 Pillows’ and her photography, and hear her story in the video below: