Doctors told the parents of four-year-old Adam Bell he wouldn’t live a normal life. Now at 26, he is set on becoming the best photographer in town. As Bell strives to sharpen his skills, he will continue to capture his best shots along the way.
“I’m a young adult. I’m an adult that has a disability,” Bell said adding that because of it “Doctors told me I was never going to walk and talk. In 2014, a foot doctor said I had flat feet. They said if I don’t get surgery in the next two years, I’m never going to walk for the rest of my life.”
Bell has not undergone any foot-related surgeries (Bell chose not to disclose his diagnosis).
People on the street observing Bell wouldn’t suspect anything unusual about his walking ability.
His biggest challenge is dealing with his learning disability. He said that it may take him longer to learn and understand compared to other people.
“If you teach me, I’ll get it. Just give me time to figure it out. Everyone is human and they have their own uniqueness. You are the person you are.”
Bell, who was born in San Jose and raised in Hollister, is well known in the community. He ran weather forecasts for Hollister High School, San Benito Live and Growing Hearts. He shares his photography work, which highlights the unique landscapes and people of San Benito County, on his websites and social media.
Since 2018, Bell has received support from Hope Services, a nonprofit that assists people with developmental and mental health issues.
“They help people in need of a job by getting them out into the world,” he said. “I was one of those people, I’m trying to be independent.”
In the past parents of children with developmental disabilities were encouraged to send them to an institution to live out their lives, a practice that is now uncommon.
“This group of six families said, ‘I want better for my child, I want my child to have the same opportunities that everybody else gets,’” said Stacey Romero, Hope Services program coordinator. “So, these families stuck together and created Hope Services, and now we have 32 clients.”
Bell is enrolled in Hope Services’ Employment, Media & Community Connections program, where people are introduced to opportunities in employment and learn to use media technology. Members also engage with the community through volunteer opportunities by attending local events.
One year after joining Hope Services, Bell began to take photography seriously.
In March 2019, Hope Services’ training guided Bell to become the social media specialist intern for Growing Hearts, a nonprofit that promotes supportive employment for adults with special needs through community service and other job training opportunities.
Bell’s first camera was a gift of a Canon EOS Rebel T3.
“In the 2020-21 years, I started to take a large number of professional pictures,” he said. “Then I came into having my website, my own Instagram, and my own Facebook.”
Whether he is in the countryside or downtown Hollister, Bell carries with him a binder of sheets holding photography tips and his daily schedule.
Bell is now the media specialist at Growing Hearts, where he manages content on social media platforms and the organization’s resources. Following his personalized schedule with help from Romero, Bell sets days and times to attend Hope Services, Growing Hearts and photography sessions.
“Adam’s successful at creating a program that works for him. He has figured out what he wants to do,” Romero said. “Adam comes to Hope the amount of time that Adam wants to come to help. He always sees the bright side of everything, right? That’s something that we could all do. We can learn from Adam.”
The BenitoLink Internship Program is a paid, skill-building program that prepares local youth for a professional career. This program is supported by Monterey Peninsula Foundation AT&T Golf Tour, United Way, Taylor Farms and the Emma Bowen Foundation.