Sanchez' poster of a Nintendo DS system video game, portraying the message that "Life is not a game and you only have one chance," was this year's top-prize recipient in the annual poster contest.
All of Roosevelt School's students, grades 3 through 6, drew a poster in September as part of the Drug and Alcohol Awareness month. Judges picked the top 15 posters that were put on display at the annual Weehawken Day Festival during the final Saturday in September.
Residents were then asked to vote on their choices for the best poster. Lo and behold, the defending champ captured first prize and a United States savings bond for her efforts.
"It feels great," said Sanchez, who has aspirations one day to get into fashion design. "I love drawing. I draw all the time. This is a good start for me, winning the contest again. I still like drawing. As long as it involves art and drawing, I'm happy. I don't know what I would do if I wasn't drawing something."
The top four finishers received special awards from Mayor Richard Turner and the township council at the regularly scheduled council meeting Wednesday night. The meeting and awards presentation was held at the Weehawken Elks, as the renovations to Town Hall have not been completed.
Roosevelt School Principal Tony D'Angelo initiated the contest years ago when he was the Substance Abuse and Drug Awareness Counselor for the district. Now that he serves as principal, he's proud to see all the students get involved in the contest.
"Our art teacher, Mary Ellen Spinosa, gets behind the kids and helps them all with their posters," D'Angelo said. "They have three weeks to finish their project and then we pick the ones that move on to the Weehawken Day Festival. The children always impress me. Their creativity is nothing short of amazing."
While Sanchez represented the sixth grade well, the remaining three prize recipients are fifth grade students. Marcela DeSharnais was the first runner-up. She combined her love for Disney recording star Hannah Montana with a message about drug use.
"One of Hannah's songs is called 'I Got Nerve,'" DeSharnais explained. "So my poster was of a guitar and it said, `I got nerve to find who does drugs.'" DeSharnais used the hole in the guitar as the "O" in her poster.
"I never thought I would win," DeSharnais said. "I never thought I'd get anything."
And how big of a Hannah Montana fan is she? "I'm wearing her shirt and boots right now," DeSharnais said.
She's also one of the fortunate ones. She got tickets to see Hannah Montana (real name Miley Cyrus) and the Jonas Brothers on Dec. 30. "I can't wait," DeSharnais said. "They're really cool."
The second runner-up was fellow fifth grader Kellen Dorio, who was the recipient of the top prize in the Weehawken Recreation's photo contest in August. Dorio's creativity obviously goes beyond the lens.
"My poster said, `Drugs have no point,'" Dorio said. "It featured one pencil that was broken and it had needles next to it. Then there was another pencil and it had an apple because it was healthy and not on drugs. I was so happy, because this was the first year I got up on the wall [where the finalists' posters are displayed at the Festival] and I won. I like drawing. I learned a little about drawing and I had fun."
The third runner-up was Chase Jennings, also in fifth grade. Jennings' poster was entitled, "Drugs: An Accident Waiting to Happen."
"I drew needles next to Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff," Jennings said. "I was happy, because my sister [Ellis] always does better than me."
Because Sanchez will be in seventh grade, she can't win the contest again. There will be a different champion artist in 2008. "It doesn't matter," Sanchez said. "As long as I can keep drawing."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org