YouthSpark Star

Delaney Brown

Delaney is combining her love of photography with her passion for social change.

We Day Brings Big Picture into Focus

"I love photography," gushes 18-year-old Delaney Brown from Federal Way, Washington. She has captured weddings, senior portraits, and family photos. "I want to be a fashion photographer, or any career where I can use a camera." Last year, she tapped that passion and combined it with another: community service.

When Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger came to her school, Delaney learned about We Day, an event that is part rock concert, part inspirational rally, and only young people who have volunteered their time to community service projects can earn tickets to attend. Free the Children, an international charity and educational partner that empowers youth to become agents of change, hosts We Day events all over the world.

"I was immediately inspired to get involved in community service projects," says Delaney. She took part in "We Scare Hunger," a Halloween trick-or-treat event affiliated with Free the Children that collected items for her area food bank. Combined with three other school districts, the effort took in more than 10,000 pounds of food in October 2012.

Microsoft YouthSpark Reporters join We Day cohost Munro Chambers from the hit TeenNick TV show Degrassi.

Microsoft YouthSpark Reporters join We Day cohost Munro Chambers from the hit TeenNick TV show Degrassi.

Community service wasn't new to Delaney. It's been a family affair. She and her parents worked on Earth Day cleanup events when she was younger. She helped out at the food bank where her grandmother volunteered. And in her freshman and sophomore years, she spent summer making lunches for students who didn't have access to the free and reduced lunch programs provided during the school year.

It was a teacher who asked Delaney to apply for a spot as a YouthSpark Reporter, an opportunity Microsoft provides to select young people to gain skills training in journalism and technology, and the Reporters use Microsoft technology to report on their We Day experience. On her application essay, she wrote about her plans to pursue a degree in commercial photography and "nearly died" when she was chosen as one of the YouthSpark Reporters.

At Key Arena on We Day, she got an all-access backstage experience, as well as an on-stage spot in front of thousands of peers. She interviewed celebrities like Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and singer Jennifer Hudson. "I was five feet away from her!" she exclaims about seeing Hudson backstage.

Delaney uses her favorite vintage camera to shoot photos of her friends and family.

Delaney uses her favorite vintage camera to shoot photos of her friends and family.

Delaney took photos, video and live-tweeted throughout the event. "It made me realize the effect social media has on kids my age," she says. "Kids who couldn't go were able to keep with what was going on. It inspired a couple of people to get involved with We Day this year." This year, We Day returns to Seattle, and California will also join the We Day movement, with an event in Oakland.

The highlight of the day was interviewing Martin Luther King III. "That's something I never thought would happen to me," she recalls. “It never would have happened without YouthSpark. Still even thinking about it today, it takes my breath away; it’s something I'm always going to carry with me. YouthSpark made me realize I can do so much more with the talents that I have. I can benefit other people, not just myself, with my journalistic skills.”

Delaney has seen how photography can be used for social good. "There's a program that provides free portraits to people fighting cancer," she explains. "It's something I'd like to get involved with. I want to help others and use the skills I have to do that."

Delaney, who plans to be a fashion photographer, spends time with her best friend in Seattle, Washington.

Delaney, who plans to be a fashion photographer, spends time with her best friend in Seattle, Washington.

Delaney's desire to use her photography to benefit others aligns perfectly with the goals of We Act, the year-long educational initiative that leads up to We Day. She is one of millions in the movement that provides young people with education and inspiration, and then empowers them to make a positive impact in the world.

One of the subjects of Delaney's candid photos was the school’s head janitor. "She was so funny, and had pretty blue eyes," she shared quietly. The woman recently passed away, and Delaney's photo was one of the few the school had of her. "I printed it and gave it to her family. The way her family was affected by it, you could tell it meant a lot to them," Delaney says.

Being part of YouthSpark and We Day encouraged Brown to tackle tasks she didn’t think were possible, like interviewing inspirational figures and speaking on stage in front of thousands. It pushed her to look at the bigger picture.

"I guess you could say that YouthSpark inspired me to be involved with something greater and take myself farther than just Washington state."

Delaney's Photography

  • Crescent Bar

    Crescent Bar

    This was Delaney’s first attempt at astrophotography one summer night in eastern Washington. "This amazing shot of the stars helped to expand my photographic horizons, literally and figuratively."

  • Duality


    This is from a series on color studies. "Throughout this series, I used colored gels to cast bright hues upon my models skin. Only slight retouching was done to perfect the images, no extra color was added post processing."

  • Broken Wings

    Blake Senior Portrait

    "This photograph is an example of one of my favorite types of photography, senior portraits. I get to document important moments and it’s extremely rewarding to photograph close friends and watch them move on to a new chapter of their lives."

  • Macklemore


    The Seattle-based rap star made a surprise appearance at We Day and Delaney captured this shot while working as a YouthSpark Reporter.

  • Le Souffrance Intrieure

    Le Souffrance

    This photo won a gold key in the regional round of the National Scholastic Alliance for Young Artists and Writers competition and has moved on to national judging. "The water and the way it is enveloping and distorting the subject show how clinical depression can overwhelm someone."

  • Tree Planter

    Tree Planter

    This photo of a homeless man was taken at Pike Place Market. "I was captivated by how bright his eyes were and the detail in his face. I wanted an intimate look at how weathered and unique he looked and caught this photo of him looking straight into the camera as he told me of his former job planting trees."

  • Dilya


    "With the use of gel and strobes, I was able to cast gorgeous colors onto my models. This shot of Dilya is my favorite of the series because the colors fit her gorgeously and her eye contact with the camera is striking."

  • Grandpa


    This shot is from a series entitled Departure. "My great grandfather's Alzheimer's reached a debilitating level so I took time documenting the last two months of his life and earned a new found understanding of his disease."

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