You should not think the camera that makes the photo, it is the photographer that makes the photo.
And you dont need DSLR.
Photography can be learnt even with P&S.
Photographer must learn the limitation of each camera on hand and work within the perimiter of that limitation rather than push it over the limit.
There are plenty to learn with static display or landscape / night photography.
You guys can play with cardboard and make your own "studio" equipment. Just make sure all light bulb are the same and then you can tweak white balance later. You dont have to buy expensive studio flashes.
Of course you have to manage the expectation from other sponsors and not let them to push you guys to commit to take picture of school sport event and want you guys to produce newspaper like photos, because those are taken with easily equipments with 5 digit price.
As for software there are plenty of free software to use.
And dont limit yourself to photography. With photography you can make stop motion animation, interesting scrap book, etc. Play around with simple yet creative photo editing. Dont aim for image manipulation standard like those used in movies now.
When I was in high school i just use my ricoh p&s using film and took candid photo of us in class, with different teachers, and then make a comic based on those photos. Each teachers have their own stock phrase and I make buble speech of those and simply glue it on top of the 3R prints. Yes - that time 4R prints are quite expensive!
Learn to work within limitations, cos in live that is what we all have to do.