Photographer shoots Class of 2020 seniors for free

Stephanie Huerta helps Christian Torres, 17, pose for his complimentary graduation photo. Huerta offered her services for high school seniors who are not having a regular graduation this year due to COVID-19. Elsa Cavazos/Valley Morning Star

HARLINGEN — Clorox wipes, a face mask and a cap and gown are all seniors needed for the perfect photo.

Class of 2020 seniors might not be having the typical commencement ceremony this year, but that does not mean portraits shouldn’t be taken.

Stephanie Huerta, 35, is a local photographer who offered her services for free to those graduating this year.

Huerta posted on her photography Facebook page she would be scheduling complimentary shoots with seniors throughout the Rio Grande Valley to alleviate the feelings of sadness they might be having.

Huerta is also an 8th grade science teacher, which is one of the reasons she felt she needed to do something for upcoming graduates.

“ As a teacher, a lot of these seniors were my students at one time so seeing them not have the opportunity to walk the stage is what drove me to do whatever I can to help them remember what they can for graduation,” Huerta said.

“ To see them grown into adults and being a part of this accomplishment means the world to me,” she said.

Because of the difficult economic situation people are currently going through, Huerta said she wanted to offer her services for free in order for parents to not have to worry about another expense.

“ I know right now a lot of people are going through a hard time with not working or businesses being shut down. I figured if this is a talent God has given me to have, why not do this for them?” she said.

Huerta continues her teaching schedule, since she is a part of the Coakley Middle School staff. With the new online platform, she does Zoom meetings and online classes until 5 p.m.

Once she is done with her teaching schedule, she opened times for photo shoot appointments.

“ I wanted to help these seniors to capture the moments they can during this time. A lot of people have not gotten the stimulus check yet so this is just something I can do to give back to my community and students. You can’t put a price on making memories during this time,” she said.

Huerta announced her offer last week, and soon a flood of appointments swarmed in her Facebook message inbox.

Students from the McAllen area, Harlingen, Brownsville and Olmito made appointments for Huerta to shoot their pictures and capture the unique time they are living.

Huerta has shot 15 students in three days and has 65 more scheduled until May 17.

The students were required to make the trip to Harlingen and Huerta said she made sure everyone practiced social distancing, kept their mask on and had hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes on hand for extra safety.

She scheduled a few photos at the local Harlingen bike and running trail. With the trees in the back and the wind blowing, she placed her clients in serious and funny poses.

A few posed with their mask on, as well as with Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer next to them. A sign that read, “Congrats Class of 2020” with the hashtag “#inquarantine” laid next to them.

Laurie Torres, mother of Christian Torres, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School, went with her son to the bike trail to commemorate her son’s graduation year.

“ I think it’s amazing. I think it’s a blessing for a lot of people. She is sharing her gift God gave her with these beautiful photos,” Torres said.

Christian is in the autism spectrum, but even with not having a prom or regular graduation Laurie said he was keeping calm and was excited to take photos.

“ Christian keeps himself busy and is content with the simple things in life. This hasn’t affected him in a negative way but whatever comes his way he can take on,” she said.