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The Alexia grant is a phenomenal award that provides grants and scholarships to photojournalists, enabling them to create work that gives voice to those who go unheard, fosters cultural understanding and exposes social injustice. In 2000, this grant changed my life when I won the professional grant. I was young and inexperienced and it allowed me to start my first story in the tiny, impoverished country of Guinea Bissau.  It was there – without the pressure of a deadline, or the expectation of a magazine  that I learned the importance of patience, of taking time to tell a story.  I thought I would stay a month but ended up living there for a half year, telling the stories of how the majority of people on this planet live. It was a powerful turning point when I realized I want to spend my life working to highlight the commonalities of human existence rather than our differences. It was also at that moment I realized that I was not going to be just a photographer. I was also going to be a storyteller.

The deadline for The Alexia Foundation Professional and Student Grants is Jan. 13, 2014 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The Professional Grant carries a prize of $20,000 for a professional photographer to produce a substantial photo or multimedia story that makes the world a better place.  There are a total of six Student Grants available. The student winner will receive funding for a semester at the Syracuse University London Program,  a $1,000 cash grant to help produce the proposed body of work, a $300 gift card from Dury’s Photo and $500 will be awarded to that student’s academic department. Student awards will also be given to a Second Place Winner, and three Award of Excellence Winners.

This year, a new student grant has been added, The Gilka Grant, honoring Robert E. Gilka, the longtime director of photography for National Geographic Magazine and an important supporter of The Alexia Foundation. The Gilka Grant will recognize the best project proposal that also includes a multimedia component. The winner will receive a $1,500 scholarship to attend the Kalish Workshop.

I hope you apply and submit those proposals that inspire us. At the end of the day all of us are not only photographers.  We are storytellers and its important to cover not just the headlines but also to focus on the stories that unite us. Good luck!

Link to student grant: http://www.alexiafoundation.org/grants/student_rules

Link to professional rules: http://www.alexiafoundation.org/grants/professional_rules

Link to grants page: http://www.alexiafoundation.org/grants

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