Newburyport student shoots for career in photography

MIKE LABELLA/Staff photo  Kay Alexander, 22, of Newburyport sold this framed photograph she took of gray wolves at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich at a recent fundraiser held at Northern Essex Community College.

HAVERHILL — Kay Alexander says it would be a dream come true if she could land a paying job as a photographer.

Although she has sold various photos to friends and others, it was the recent sale of a framed photograph of wolves that really lit up her day and cemented her desire.

“I’ve been interested in photography since I was in middle school,” she said. “I’m mostly self-taught, but I do look up things online.”

Alexander, 22, of Newburyport participates in Project SEARCH, a job internship program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with the goal of securing paid, entry-level employment for them. 

The program is part of Opportunity Works, an organization that provides a range of job training and other services to people with disabilities. 

Alexander works as a medical stocking clerk for the Health Services program on the Lawrence campus of Northern Essex Community College. But her favorite internship assignment is “event photographer” for the college. 

Michael McCarthy, vice president of administration and finance, recommended Alexander for the job after viewing some of her photographs.

Mary Murphy, business liaison for Project SEARCH, introduced Alexander to events coordinator Allison Gagne, who assigns Alexander to shoot events such as the recent Police Academy graduation at the Haverhill campus.

To keep her skills sharp, Alexander takes photos just about every day and particularly enjoys shooting outdoors.

“I love wildlife photography and capturing action shots of animals,” she said. “I also like doing portrait photography and I’ve sold some photographs to friends. And I have photographs for sale at The Cottage in downtown Newburyport.”

When Alexander learned about the recent Art Gala organized by Priscilla Westaway, she framed one of her favorite photographs of two gray wolves nuzzling at Wolf Hollow in Ipswich. She put it on display at the event, which was held Oct. 18-19 at NECC and raised money for Westaway’s foundation, Believe Anything and Everything is Possible.

Westaway, a photography student at NECC, said she loved Alexander’s image so much she purchased it for her daughter, who loves wolves.

“Kay’s photo was comparable to photographs of animals that other artists had donated to our fundraiser,” Westaway said.

“I think she has an incredible talent and I’m going to get my foundation’s clerk, who is a professional photographer, together with her so she can learn more.”

Project SEARCH is a business-led internship program that has grown from a single program site in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to more than 300 sites internationally.

Megan Stone, Project SEARCH manager for NECC, said the program provides clients such as Alexander with real-world work experiences that can help land them a paying job. 

Opportunity Works introduced Project SEARCH to NECC in 2014. Participants such as Alexander begin and end each day with work readiness classes covering topics like job interviews, résumé writing, professionalism, and technology in the workplace.

In between classroom learning, students spend their time interning in different Northern Essex departments. Over the course of the school year, students intern for 12 weeks in each of three different departments.

Stone said her interns receive the opportunity to acquire marketable job skills that can lead to paid employment while giving NECC access to a well-trained talent base, as well as an enriched business culture.

“It would be Kay’s dream job to be a paid photographer,” Stone said.

Samples of Alexander’s photography can be seen on Facebook at HowlingStudios photography.