First Step Staffing: Final Project

First Step Staffing: Final Project

Emory students partnered with Atlanta photographer and filmmaker Melissa Alexander to create a video that captured First Step Staffing‘s mission to employ the homeless, the recently incarcerated and veterans, as well as showing the impact of the nonprofit’s work on individuals. Read more about the how this project came to be, here.

Below, view the group’s final project.

Read other posts about this project:


First Step: Final Thoughts

First Step: Final Thoughts

(Carly Besser) We’re two out of the five students that created this project and it was such a pleasure working with both Melissa Alexander and First Step Staffing to make our short documentary. The filmmaking experience was relatively new to all of us on our team. Some of us came into this class with photography experience and minor editing skills, but we were able to pick up the skills needed to execute this project with the help of our amazing mentor and artistic guide, Melissa. I learned so much about how important it is to embrace the unexpected when creating a film and to be open to hearing the stories around us to gain new perspectives. We heard many incredible stories from First Step employees and clients that challenged all of our perceptions of what we identified with homelessness. We hope our film did the same for you all.


(Edward Hernandez) Our goal with this project was to tell a story that explained what homelessness is, what the common misconceptions of homelessness is, and how First Step Staffing is impacting homelessness in Atlanta and other cities. We decided to approach this goal by showcasing the experiences of one of First Step’s clients, Dale, and intermixing it with interviews from First Step employees. As a group, we felt that it was important to build an overarching story around Dale’s life because his experiences challenges common notions of homelessness, it shows the ups and downs of someone transitioning out of homelessness, and it shows the impact of First Step.

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 9.40.11 AM

More posts from this project:

2018 Final Project Unveiling

2018 Final Project Unveiling

Monday, April 30 was the grand unveiling of this year’s final projects! Held at the Center for Ethics, the event was a great success. After a half-hour of mingling and viewing the poster exhibit, each student group and artist presented their final works and reflected on their experiences over the semester. Representatives from each nonprofit were also in attendance, and shared their hopes for how these projects will help promote their work in the future.

220 Art + Social Engagement Project Unveiling 04302018

Documentary Group: Madelon Morford, Vivien Yang, Anne Pizzini, and Will Rogers

Group One: First Step Staffing & Melissa Alexander

Group Two: Second Helpings Atlanta & Jamaal Barber

Group Three: GEEARS & Tara Olayeye

Main project pages:

All posts from the 2018 class:

Nonprofit Partner: First Step Staffing

FSS logo

Breaking the cycles of poverty

Founded in 2007 in Atlanta, First Step currently employs 1,000 individuals and is on a mission to provide a path out of homelessness through work experience. In less than 10 years, First Step has assisted more than 7,500 individuals with their first job assignment, providing the opportunity for the community to save more than $300 million. We give preference to those who have recently experienced homelessness; military veterans; and individuals who have been previously incarcerated; while providing specific training programs to support our employees and customers.

First Step is on a mission to provide a path out of homelessness.

We aim to employ those who struggle most to break their own cycles of poverty, giving preference to those who have recently experienced homelessness, military veterans, and individuals who have been previously incarcerated.

We’re working to secure sustainable income for individuals transitioning from homelessness. Steady and sustainable income is the only permanent, reliable path out of homelessness. And we help provide that sustainable income by helping local businesses succeed.

What makes us unique?

We provide transportation to job sites, safety equipment, tools, and stable housing. We also operate a wage incentive plan, rewarding employees who consistently show up on time and prepared.

Learn more here:

Read more posts from the First Step Staffing project:

Partnering Artist: Melissa Alexander

The First Step Staffing Group paired with artist Melissa Alexander, known online as phylis.iller.

Melissa Alexander, phylis.iller

personal_photo-4-1000x600Having parents from the North but being raised in the South, Melissa Alexander is the best of both worlds. “Son” drops from her mouth just as easily as “y’all” and she can kick it like Tribe but will attend a Player’s Ball with Outkast. She is mama to a daughter nicknamed lowercase g and takes her role as auntie just as seriously. Constant growth is her thing and she brings that out in her work.

phyllis.iller reel from phyllis.iller on Vimeo.

Read her interview with VoyageATL here.

Find Melissa Alexander online at, on Facebook at, and on Instagram @phyllis.iller.

View more examples of her work below.


Read more posts from the First Step Staffing group below: