May 10, 2008 — Francisco Martinez can't remember if he ever won a contest or any awards. But in April, he won a contest he will not soon forget. Martinez was the grand prize winner of National Geographic Traveler magazine's "In My View" Caribbean Youth Photography Contest.
"I never thought I would win," said Martinez. "I was so surprised."
Martinez, an Elena Christian Junior High student, took first place for his submission of "Boy in Archway." The 15-year-old shot a picture of his 10-year old brother Safiel Martinez in a gallery archway, covered with ferns and fine hanging roots of a bearded fig tree outside the Pan Am Pavilion in Christiansted.
"I learned about composition and videography last summer in Beyond Visions summer camp held at John F. Kennedy housing," said Martinez. Nicholas Mena, instructor at the camp, which is designed to keep kids off the streets, told Martinez about the contest and suggested he enter.
Martinez, a shy young man, says he feels good behind the camera and would like a career as a movie producer.
He is the son of Maritza Figueroa, and his stepfather is Jesus Figueroa.
"All the things we teach him academically could be through photography, his niche," said Willard John, principal at Elena Christian. "This alerts educators to teach students through their interests."
Martinez was honored at his school during a student assembly. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Kim Currie of National Geographic Traveler, and John were on hand to offer congratulatory messages, award certificates and prizes. The students were also treated to a photo presentation by renowned National Geographic Society photographer Annie Griffiths Belt.
Martinez received a Panasonic 35 mm digital camera, and he and his parents will travel to Washington, D.C., for a four-day, three-night stay courtesy of National Geographic Traveler. They will get a private tour of the National Geographic Society and be taken on a photographic tour of the nations capital by one of the magazines leading photographers.
Martinez winning photograph will also be published in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
Sponsored by National Geographic Traveler magazine and administered in the V.I. by the Department of Tourism, the competition invited Virgin Islands students aged 12 to 17 to submit photos that capture the best attributes of their island.
"The contest affords us a snapshot of our destination through the eyes of our youth and reminds us of the important role young people play in conveying the beauty of our islands to the world. We congratulate Martinez for his outstanding achievement," concluded Nicholson-Doty.
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