|2014 Scholarship Recipients|
High School Recipients:
Julia Becker is no stranger to cameras ... several family members are photographers. In her words, "I grew up in front of the lens." While shooting images on a service learning trip to Ecuador she discovered that "Photojournalism is not proving how good I am, it is proving what I have the power to do: make a difference." Julia's Spanish teacher, Ashley Wager, points out that Julia "examines the world from a different angle than most, by paying attention to the detail of her surroundings and by delving into the world of other cultures." Having studied French and Spanish, she has the ability to tell her story and the story of others through both language and photography. Julia's publications advisor, Matthew Schott's rather unorthodox letter of recommendation begins, "There is a photo I have that Julia Becker really hates." It is the picture of her as a freshman holding an SLR camera with a look of wonder on her face. After referencing her many successes and pointing out her skills, he finishes the letter by saying, "I'd love to have a photo that could be the sister" of the one mentioned earlier "showing Julia's face, filled with wonder, as she tells me she's won your scholarship." We hope he shares it with us.
Riley's high school teachers are quick to applaud her accomplishments. In his letter of recommendation, Tom Scotti describes her as "one of the most selfless, empathetic and compassionate individuals I have ever met." Choosing to use most of her out of school time to help others in her community, she has compiled "countless hours of volunteer service and has been recognized on a local, state and national level for her contributions." Riley spent the last year developing a documentary that sheds new light on the homeless problem. It premiered to critical acclaim at the historic Warner Grand Theater and "The fact that it was put together by a sixteen year old makes it phenomenal" adds Mr. Scotti. Riley is a multitalented student who earns straight A's and, when she is not serving meals to the homeless, enjoys acting, singing and dancing. Another teacher, Pamela Costa is equally complementary when mentioning Riley's many accomplishments. She writes that she is deserving of the camera equipment and will put it to good use, adding "She is one student that makes you go WOW!"
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
A mission trip and an opportunity to go on safari in Kenya's Masai Mara gave Riley her first opportunity to photograph animals in their natural habitat and she was enthralled. Capturing images of the animals in the wild as opposed to those in a confined environment provided her with an extraordinary learning experience. The photos that she submitted, all from the African trip, include images of village life as well as animals. "When looking through my pictures, I hope you feel the emotion ... love, joy, acceptance. My trip to Kenya has been unforgettable!" As one of the Foundation's youngest winners, Riley's submissions show an innate talent for composition, whether it be a curious child peering through a doorway, a young boy standing below a line of colorful clothing or lions feeding off a recent kill: each has a story to tell. Greg Adams, Riley's English and Speech instructor writes that she has "a keen mind with a stunning sense of awareness and maturity" while her photography teacher, Ben Herzog describes her as a bright young student with much potential. There is little doubt that when Riley decides on a path for her life, it will include a camera.
In her essay, Brianna discloses that she discovered a love of photography in her sophomore year of high school. According to Dorothy Morgan, one of her teachers, students accepted into the Independent Study Mentorship program at John Paul Stevens High School must be self-driven and very responsible. In addition to her position as chief photographer for the school yearbook and newspaper, Brianna participated in a Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program and was voted best speaker. Describing her submissions to the competition, Brianna discloses that she enjoys sports photography. In her words, "I love the feeling of being on the sidelines, up close and personal ... where I can get the action and the reaction after a win or a loss." Ms. Morgan adds, "Brianna went over and above expectations while studying sports photography and her mentor was so impressed with her work and attitude that he hired her for part time work with his sports photography business." Her high school principal, Harold Maldonado writes that in the four years he has know Brianna, he has been consistently impressed with her leadership ability, work ethic and desire for quality in her work. High praise indeed.
Holley calls herself a photographer but she is also a fine writer who begins her essay by stating that photography is a miracle. Her explanation is poetic ... "A couple thousand pixels can shed truth on what we always wished to find; on memories we are so close to forgetting." She readily admits to being new to photojournalism but one of her submissions contradicts that confession. It is an image of thousands of dead birds littering a beach at Great Salt Lake. It tells a story and asks questions. CJ Lester, Holley's photography teacher provides some additional insight stating, "She sees compositions that tell stories without words. She has a knack for visually and technically capturing the image she seeks with minimal post-processing." Serving on the staff of the Highlander, her high school yearbook, requires a large commitment of time and highly developed organizational skills. Lorna Parkinson, her yearbook advisor points out that she has no doubts of Holley's ability to meet deadlines in a timely manner. A yearbook is photojournalism at its best, showing what it was like to be in that place at that time. It is a time capsule.
Leah Klafczynski, in her application essay, says that her interest in photography started when she received her first camera for Christmas, at about age 9. "I didn't even finish opening the rest of my gifts as I was out the door to photograph the detailed icicles on a tree." Many years later, as a student at Kent State University, she is still taking photographs, this time as a talented journalist. As the Foundation's still photography winner, Leah's submitted photos are all very different, but all detailed, beautiful and invoke stories. A softball catcher in action, a runner getting ready for a race, and the most poignant one, a father and daughter at night watching something unfold with a police car. Both of her reference letters note her strong "compositional eye" and sensitivity towards her subjects, but they also both reference her ability to change and adapt to what is needed for an assignment. As David LaBelle, from Kent State, notes, "Leah finds solutions, rather than excuses." Todd Mizener, from the Dispatch & Rock Island Argus, where Leah was an intern, says that "when an assignment didn't go as planned, she was able to quickly adjust her trajectory and come back with the needed photos."
Alanna Delfino is captivated by sounds. When she was a little girl, she had a speech impediment. At only six years old, she tried to fix the problem by using a tape recorder to capture sounds and conversations, listening to the correct way to pronounce words. Even now, the first thing Alanna does when she films a story is to close her eyes and simply listen. It is perhaps this sense of curiosity and attention to detail that make her videos so rich and complex. They are also great, interesting stories. As she says in her application essay, "You will never hear me say that I'm a reporter, anchor, videographer or journalist. What you'll hear me say is that I'm a storyteller." One of her submitted videos is about a therapeutic horse program for blind students. The other is about a company helping veterans turn their old military uniforms into a lasting piece of art. Both of her reference letters are glowing, with one professor, Bethany Swain, saying that Alanna "produced some of our favorite pieces of the semester." Josh Davidsburg, another professor, liked her work so much that he asked her to help produce and shoot a documentary with him.
Carlos Hernandez writes that what he really enjoys "is telling stories that deal with emotion. I love being able to capture emotional images that can make viewers laugh, cry or smile." His two submitted videos do just that – elicit an emotional response from the viewer. His first video, about PetFest, a local fundraiser, is joyful, fun and often humorous. It also shows, however, the participants' love for their animals and the community spirit that pervades the event. Carlos' second video explores another emotion as it relates to an event designed to raise awareness for testicular cancer. Not only is Carlos a gifted photojournalist, but according to his reference leaders, he is also a leader, mentor and multi-tasker. Gretchen Doenges, who supervises Carlos in his position as a Resident Assistant, has witnessed these qualities in action and has seen him "implement new programs" and "mentor his residents on personal and academic concerns". Liz McDonald, from the College of Fine Arts and Communication, has also seen him serve as an Orientation Leader on campus, as well as help grow Texas State's social media sites. She notes that Carlos has many outstanding "personal and academic accomplishments."
Basil John, it appears, can do it all. He is both a photographer and videographer, as well as an editor, writer and on-air reporter. His many talents are confirmed by Rick Ricioppo, one of Basil's professors, who says in his reference letter: "As good as he is on camera, he is equally adept and comfortable behind the camera and in the edit booth. Basil is the kind of student who makes my job easy." Another professor, Wasim Ahmad, also notes that Basil has become so proficient with a camera that "I've recommended him to the School of Journalism to cover events for the school – events that I was usually responsible to cover." For his application, Basil submitted two wonderful and involving videos, the first about a teenage figure skater and her mom, who is also her coach. The second video is a portrait of Stony Brook's university orchestra conductor. Completely professional with great interviews and editing, both videos also show Basils' passion for his work. As he himself states in his application essay: "I hope that anyone who looks at my pictures and watches my videos understands the hard work and passion I feel for every project and assignment."
Sean Logan, in his application essay, states: "This semester more than ever, I have discovered an even deeper passion for photojournalism and visual storytelling." This is a result of an in-depth investigative assignment on heroin addiction. While the job was extremely hard and sometimes frustrating, Sean says that "without a doubt, I will always remember these stories as the basis and foundation for my future career in journalism." Jacquee Petchel, one of Sean's professors, says that his work is professional, compelling and, in her words, "stellar". He is also "ethical, fair, measured and at the same time, unstoppable in his quest to produce good work." Jason Manning, the Director of Student Media Faculty at ASU, further notes that Sean, in addition to being a wonderful reporter, is also a leader and mentor. After working at the university's "The State Press" for several years, he was appointed multimedia editor by an esteemed advisory board made up of professional journalists and faculty members. A previous Foundation scholarship recipient, Sean once again turned in two exceptional videos. The first is about a ballet teacher with a distinct teaching style and a unique relationship with her students. The second is an investigative piece about facility problems at ASU.
Graduate student recipient:
Yamiche Alcindor, the Foundation's first graduate student scholarship recipient, received extremely strong recommendations from nationally-recognized journalists. Michael James, National Editor, Breaking News, for USA Today, said that Yamiche is "one of USA Today's brightest young stars" and "brings old-school journalism values – accuracy, integrity, and quality writing – into today's technology-packed news world." Marcia Rock, Director, News and Documentary, at NYU, also notes that, while she had a good job at USA Today and didn't need to attend graduate school, Yamiche "wasn't satisfied with her video work … She wanted good storytelling skills and habits." Yamiche, who was drawn to reporting and photojournalism by courageous journalists of the past ("instances in history where journalists stepped up"), submitted two wonderful videos as part of her application. The first one, which covers the struggles of wrongfully convicted people, is a moving portrait of how those exonerated (in one case she highlights, after 24 years in prison), do not have the support they need once freed. The second video, equally powerful, is also fun and a joy to watch. Filmed on a NYC subway, it is about a man who uses puppets to help him with a speech problem.