Photography Students at Silverado High School Nationally Recognized by Scholastic Art & Writing Awards


By Janice Eck

(Victorville)– The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have been recognizing literary and artistic vision, skill, originality, and personality of our country’s youth since 1923. With awards alumni like Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and John Lithgow, the Awards has an amazing eye and ear for identifying true accomplishments and creativity. Entries for the Awards are ever-increasing as 255,000 works were submitted during the 2014-year and 2015 saw more than 300,000 entries. 17,000 (6%) of those entries received regional Gold Key awards, which qualified them to compete for National honors. Of the Gold Keys, 2,200 (0.7%) received National Gold and Silver Medals.

Randaja Caldwell was one of the 6% who received a Gold Key for her terrifyingly-fantastic zombie-like photo. Sophomore, Tyloni Menefee not only received a Gold Key award, but was also awarded a National Silver Medal for her photo, “The Boy Who Never Cries.” Silverado High School also produced 3 Silver Key winners and 8 Honorable Mentions.

Menefee, who is only 16 years-old, took a few minutes from her Photography class to speak with High Desert Daily about her spontaneous photograph, “It was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. There’s a bench outside my house and I thought it would make a pretty nice frame for the photo, so I had my little brother look through it because of his eyes.” And when you look at the photo, its title couldn’t be any more perfect.

With cameras on everything from cell phones to tablets, photography has definitely become an underappreciated art form. It takes more than a sepia setting and a perfectly-timed click to get a picture worth submitting to art competitions. Shelly Sears, Photography teacher at Silverado High School, constantly encourages her students to participate in art shows and enter competitions because she sees the hard work they put into their projects and realizes they need the positive reinforcement to believe in themselves as much as she believes in them. Enticing them with extra credit doesn’t hurt either. Sears shared with High Desert Daily, “I offer a little extra credit for their time. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards was kind of a long process. I went through the website myself and found it was a little difficult and some students might get discouraged and think ‘My work isn’t good enough anyway,’ so I give them a tiny bit of extra credit to encourage them to participate in it then they’re more willing to put their work out there.”

Sears hopes the community and the schools realize how much the arts matter. Not just photography, but fine arts and music in general. With cutbacks in schools, art and music are usually the first to feel the brunt of budget cuts, but the arts are more important and pertinent than most people would like to think, “Students can make careers out of art and it isn’t something to just do out of fun,” Sears explained. “It takes a lot of intelligence and creativity to produce a work of art especially with Photography.”

To view the incredible works of the students, go to

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