CHICAGO -- Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today announced the five grand prize winners of the statewide Be Real Youth Photo Contest, chosen by the public through on-line voting at www.futures4kids.org.
The winners are Joel Cargerman, 10, Plainfield; Rachel Crickman, 10, Channahon; Lindsay Graff, 12, Wheaton; Jonathan Guarneri, 12, Naperville; and Maggie Plese, 10, Morris. The five winners were selected from among 24 finalists posted on the Futures for Kids Web site in January. Each will receive a digital camera donated by the Fuji Corporation.
“Our Be Real photographers are helping us get the message out across Illinois that anyone can achieve their dreams if only they stay true to themselves and stay off drugs and alcohol,” said Mrs. Ryan.
Be Real is an innovative drug prevention effort aimed at the youth of Illinois between the ages of 10 and 14. The theme encourages these young people to “be real” to themselves, their families, their friends and communities by being drug-free.
The contest allowed Illinois youth between the ages of 10 and 14 to demonstrate through photography how they and those around them are being real by staying drug-free. Participants were also asked to submit a brief essay describing how the individuals pictured were being real.
Joel Cargerman photographed his grandfather on the electric “scooter” he uses to get around town. “My grandpa is 76 years old and enjoys life every day. He is a great role model for me. He is happy, healthy and drug-free,” Joel wrote in his winning essay.
Rachel Crickman finds inspiration from her father sharing events from the newspaper every day. “He always finds something important to tell us after he reads it (the newspaper),” Rachel noted, adding that she realizes that “he is being real by being himself.”
The awareness that using drugs would end the dreams of an aspiring ballerina led photographer Lindsay Graff to share an image of her friend Rebecca Marines. “Rebecca practices ballet and pointe four times a week,” Lindsay said. “If she were to do drugs they would ruin her body and she would not be able to become a professional ballerina as she hopes.”
Naperville’s Jonathan Guarneri says everyone should “be a real member of the community we live in by sharing time and talents with people who need our help and friendship.” His photograph showed a young volunteer helping a nursing home patient.
Maggie Plese captured a fun moment between two cousins, Jimmy and Ryan, who had climbed atop a playground jungle gym to play their coronets. “Band helps them to be drug, alcohol, and tobacco free because it keeps them busy and they have fun,” Maggie said in her essay.
Be Real is spearheaded by Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan and falls under the umbrella of Futures for Kids, a statewide resource for programs and policies related to the health, safety and education of infants, children and teenagers.
Be Real was launched in October 2001. Schools throughout the state have incorporated activities from the Be Real planning guide into classroom prevention efforts. The drug-free messages are being reinforced in homes and communities with parent guides, billboards, movie theater public service ads and radio announcements.