2018: Sarah Blesener, Smith Fellowship Recipient

In Beckon Us From Home, Sarah Blesener photographs patriotic camps and clubs across the nation, where roughly 400,000 children are taught, often with military subtext, what it means to be an American. Here, in this microcosm of a changing nation, teenagers are simultaneously straddling the vulnerability of adolescence and the stripping of individual identity.

2018 – Sarah Blesener, 2018 Smith Fellowship Recipient

A Young Marine and her mother rest between physical fitness drills on a cold fall evening in Hanover, PA, 8 Sep 2017. Nationwide, the youth group has around 300 clubs. The ages range from 8-18. The Young Marines is a not-for-profit organization focusing on youth development in categories such as citizenship and patriotism.

Elizabeth Nelson, 17, waits in the parking lot of Home Depot waiting for her friends after watching their team their first football game of the season, 25 August 2017, Omaha, Nebraska. Nelson enlisted to the army the summer before her senior year of high school, and will ship out to boot camp three days after she graduates.

“We came here to be isolated. I wanted to build a home that looks like an old prairie school house – minimal, white, nostalgic. We dream of the past like some people dream of the future.” Rebekah Engebretson

Curtis, Kate and Jude, all of whom are homeschooled, lay in their backyard in Watford, North Dakota, on a dry, hot summer afternoon. Western North Dakota attracted families from across the nation during the recent oil boom. Watford, like other rural towns in the region, is now facing unemployment and overdevelopment since the decline of the oil industry. 6 July 2017.

“Always remember, you are soldiers of God, and nobody in the entire history of the world has ever been as free as you are right now.” Opening words from Utah Patriot Camp. Utah Patriot Camp, a week-long day camp, takes place in Herriman, Utah, 30 June 2017. The camp teaches the constitution, American values, military history, lessons on God’s Word, and others. The camp strives to create patriots, and is for elementary-aged children. The Herriman camp hosted 95 students for the week.

Wisconsin Army Cadets take a break to eat “dilly bars” from Dairy Queen while spending a Saturday at Fox Valley Technical College for an urban operations training event, 21 April, 2018. The cadet program teaches the students to respond to active shooters, and uses “sets” designed in the fashion of motels and homes in suburbia. Many students expressed anxiety about high school shootings, and feel that training can help them be prepared in case of an emergency in their own school.

Garett, a senior member of the Young Marines, dances with his girlfriend at a Young Marines attend a ball at the local VFW, 21 Oct 2017, Hanover, PA. The ball is celebrated once a year, with family and friends celebrating the students success in the program. Hanover and the surrounding districts combine for Young Marines
meetings, with a total of around 40 students. Nationwide, the youth group has around 300 clubs. The ages range from 8-18. The Young Marines is a not-for-profit organization focusing on youth development in categories such as citizenship, patriotism, and drug-free lifestyles.

Thomas Dillon (L), Kayla Wayman (M), and Julia Lair (R) spend the evening at Mt. Rushmore for a ceremony promoting two cadets in their unit, as well as to watch a patriotic film and lighting ceremony, Keystone, South Dakota, 13 July 2017. Students from five states around the Midwest spend a week at the Civil Air Patrol Joint Dakota Encampment. The age range is 12-18, with around 60 students in attendance.

Jamison, Jade, Gregory and Nick, throw rocks at their friends swimming in the distance, celebrating the 4th of July holiday on the Fort Berthold Reservation, 3 July 2017, North Dakota. The group is saying goodbye to one of their friends, Logan, who leaves in two days for boot camp for the Marines. His grandpa inspired him, and he didn’t want to work on the oil fields.

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