The students who show up at San Francisco's Life Learning Academy aren't going to be their class valedictorians. They've struggled in traditional school settings, and by they time they arrive at LLA, they're in need of a fresh start.

"When I was younger, I witnessed things no kid should see," Demond, 18, said. "One day I was in court, and the judge called me a 'menace to society.' She told me I had two sides of me, and that it's up to me to decide what kind of guy I want to be."

(Photo by Demond, 18)

Now, Demond has a chance to show the world what kind of guy he is through photography. Demond's work is part of a group exhibit called #WeHearYouSF, which showcases five teenagers from LLA and opens Friday at San Francisco's Haus of Hipstamatic.

The show was born from a partnership between LLA, an arts initiative called the W.H.Y. Project, and the digital photography app Hipstamatic.

The teenagers — aged 15 to 18 — were sent out into their neighborhoods armed only with an iPod touch, the Hipstamatic app, and this prompt: "If you could tell the world anything, what would you say…"

The answers range from somber to silly, obscure to quotidian. But each image captures life as it's being lived in that moment.

"We were blown away by the topics the students decided to cover," Luanne Dietz, director of the W.H.Y. Project, said. "The stories are very personal."

Below, selected images from each of the five students:

Demond, 18: "It took me getting locked up to change my lifestyle."


Danna, 16: "I get inspired so easily by the smallest things… I want people to stop and look. Because life is beautiful."

Danna, 16


Rebecca, 15: "I spend my weekdays at a group home and then every weekend at home… Freedom is something no one should take away from you. It's something that makes you appreciate the little things that make you smile. My freedom is limited."


Ar'Jaun, 17: "Swag is alive because people care about the way they look. Guess you can say my generation is more of the flashy type."

Ar'Jaun, 17


Justice, 18: "Where I live, you don't see couples holding hands, just me and my girlfriend… I feel like I have to prove constantly that I'm not this monster. All I want is to not be looked at like I'm weird, I'm a normal person."

Justice, 18

**Learn more about the W.H.Y. Project and the Life Learning Academy**

In the Bay Area on Friday? Check out the #WeHearYouSF Gallery Show