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Cole High School students earn superior ratings for photos at national journalism convention

By David DeKunder | 502 Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 13, 2019


A pair of Cole High School students have each earned a superior rating for their photography from a national scholastic journalism organization.

Raquelle Bennett and Laura DeLeon, who are juniors at Cole, achieved the rating at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association, or JEA/NSPA, National High School Journalism Convention held in Chicago in November 2018.

The Cole students earned their superior ratings after submitting their photographic entries in competition categories that included high school students from across the U.S. The entries were judged by high school photography teachers, professional photographers and photo-journalists throughout the nation.

Bennett achieved the superior rating in the photography portfolio category, DeLeon in the themed photo category. In each of those categories, only three students were awarded the superior rating.

Brenda Marafioto, Cole High School photography and journalism teacher, said a superior rating is the highest rating a student can achieve in a JEA category and takes a high standard of work to attain.

Marafioto said Bennett and DeLeon accomplished a rare feat by each earning a superior rating as high school juniors. Also, they were the only students from Texas to win the superior rating in their categories.

“I’m incredibly proud of them,” Marafioto said.

The photo entries submitted by Bennett and DeLeon, with help from Marafioto, were among the best from their photography class projects.

Bennett entered eight portrait photos in the portfolio category. Utilizing photographic techniques and tools such as digital art, props, Photoshop and shooting with different lenses and shutter speeds, Bennett was able to create an array of portrait photos, each with different colors.

Bennett said her photos were judged with several criteria in mind.

“They wanted a variety of photos that showed who you are as a photographer, what you are able to do and what you are capable of doing,” Bennett said.

Bennett said portrait photography allows her to be more creative because she is able to communicate to the people in the photos what she wants them to do.

“I like to do portraits and work with people,” she said. “I feel like with models you have a lot more say, like you can tell them to do a specific thing or make a specific facial expression.”

One example of Bennett’s creativity in her portfolio is an image of a model, Sarah Haftorson, holding an umbrella as smoke rises above her head. Coming out of the smoke and from underneath the umbrella are several words, conveying the inner thoughts of the Haftorson. In the background is a wall with graffiti on it and a quote from Haftorson: “My mind travels a mile per second. Thoughts and ideas are sometimes jumbled.”

Bennett explained the meaning of the photo, which is titled “Jumbled.”

“It showed her outward appearance, but what is going on in her mind is all those thoughts, constantly thinking,” Bennett said.

The portfolio category Bennett submitted her entries to typically have high school seniors competing in it, since they have had more time to take and create more photos. Students are allowed to enter images in the portfolio category only once during their high school career.

“I was really proud that I was able to get the superior rating because as a junior, it means a lot,” Bennett said.

Marafioto said it was the second year in a row a Cole photographer has earned a superior rating in the portfolio competition at the JEA convention. In 2017, Mara Kelly, who was a senior at the time, was awarded the rating.

For her category, the themed photo contest, DeLeon submitted a photo of the Alamo. In that category, which had the theme of “My Town,” students were required to submit an image that showed the background and history of where they’re from.

The photo put together by DeLeon is a composite of several images taken by her of people moving around the Alamo, during a part of a day, using different shutter speeds.

By capturing the movements of people, DeLeon said her photo of the Alamo is making a connection between history and present day.

“When anyone thinks of San Antonio, they think of the Alamo,” she said. “(The photo) still shows how connected and busy it is to San Antonio people.”

DeLeon said she was really excited when she learned she had been awarded the superior rating.

“I felt really proud, ecstatic,” she said.

Marafioto said both of her students have photographic skills and talents that make their photos stand out.

“Raquelle is an outstanding and gifted photographer,” Marafioto said. “She has this incredible balance between creativity and strong technical skill and produces work that is very different than what is commonly seen in student photographers. It’s very different, very dynamic. I knew her work would stand out to the judges.

“She’s very gifted, but she’s also very hard-working and she’s not afraid to think outside the box,” Marafioto added.

“Laura is incredibly dedicated to her work,” Marafioto said. “She will always try to find a new and different way to tackle a project. She is particularly gifted in portrait photography and is able to demonstrate connections and relationships in her work. I think that’s what the judges saw in her piece. She didn’t just take a picture of her town, she connected the past and present with an iconic city monument.”

Bennett and DeLeon both received medals for earning their superior ratings.

The photos of Bennett and DeLeon that earned the superior rating are posted at https://colehs.smugmug.com/JEA/.

To view ratings results from the JEA convention, including those of Bennett and DeLeon, visit http://jea.org/wp/blog/2018/11/03/fall-2018-write-offs-results/.