DRAPER — Two Saint John the Baptist Middle School students were winners in the international Knights of Columbus substance abuse awareness poster contest. Seventh-grader Perri Cook placed first in the substance abuse category and eighth-grader Vincent Nguyen placed second in the alcohol abuse category.
They were among four first-place winners and four second-place winners in the world. The categories were substance abuse and alcohol abuse; each category had a middle school and high school division. Tens of thousands of entries came from over 14,000 Knights of Columbus councils worldwide.
Cook and Nguyen won $50 on the school level, $50 from the Knights of Columbus on the state level and $250 as international winners.
At the local level the judges are school faculty, staff and members of the Knights of Columbus. Posters are judged on their slogan, visual quality, and overall impact.
"The Knights are happy to provide a vehicle so the students can express themselves and for the schools to be recognized," said Andy Airriess, Utah Knights of Columbus state advocate. "It helps the students grow and become aware of their surroundings, and it’s gratifying for the Knights to see them succeed."
St. John the Baptist Middle School students have participated in the contest for the past four years. In 2011, eighth-grader Maddie Barnard placed second internationally.
"Every year the students get more talented and more creative," said Annie Lemings, the school’s art teacher. "It’s easy to work with them and harness their ideas."
To help students understand that substance abuse causes serious problems, Lemings shares with them essays written by people who have suffered through it, she said. "They have to realistically think about the issues and try to put an artistic spin on their messages. Their images should be striking to grab the attention of the viewers and their words need to be equally as strong and not overplayed. Once they understand this is a serious, real-life situation, they understand they can make an impact with their art."
Both Cook and Nguyen are naturally talented artists who have a future in art, said Lemings. "Technically they have an incredible skill," she said. "They started with thumbnail sketches and built them into strong, very beautiful images that I thought made quite an impact."
"It’s a real honor and testament to the guidance the students receive from Mrs. Lemings," said James Markosian, St. John the Baptist Middle School principal. "These two kids are very talented and have excelled in art and academics. They have to be talented just to be chosen at the local level, and to be recognized internationally is phenomenal."
Cook thought the contest was exciting and suspenseful, he said. "The contest began last October during substance abuse Red Ribbon Week," he said. "My slogan was ‘Don’t lock yourself in with drugs.’"
Cook almost didn’t participate in the contest because his artwork wasn’t finished; he ran out of markers the night before his poster was due. Lemings wasn’t going to let him enter the contest, but liked his work and thought it should be displayed. She was surprised when Cook’s poster was chosen by the judges even though it was unfinished.
Nguyen’s slogan was ‘Don’t drink your life away.’ His mother knew he was gifted in art when he began drawing at age 3, she said. "He drew all the time and now art is his favorite subject and he wants to be an art teacher."
"I enjoy teaching my little brother and my cousins various forms of art," Nguyen said.