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Student artists soar in airport contest

BRADENTON -- Seven-year-old Jovanni Gutierrez couldn’t contain his glee.

The Manatee Elementary second-grader was given $100 Thursday night -- award money he earned by winning first place in the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority’s 2011 student artwork awards.

“I’m really excited about it,” Jovanni gushed. “They gave me $100.”

The artwork awards and exhibition ceremony has been held for nine years.

“Every year’s been wonderful,” said Michael Walley, director of development and community relations for the airport. “We get between 700 and 800 pieces of artwork every year.”

The artwork is framed and placed on display in the airport for 12 months, Walley said. All students get certificates for participating.

A panel of individuals throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties were selected to judge the winning entries. First-, second- and third-place winners were chosen in each grade level category. Twelve winners were selected from each county. Then a best-of-show candidate was named.

Jovanni was the first-place winner for the kindergarten-second grade category.

Manatee Elementary art teacher Robert Malecki said the annual event shows the importance of art in schools.

“In fourth grade, I got into the photography club,” Malecki said. “I knew I was going to do that through middle school, high school and college. Not every kid’s going to school to be a history major. These kids have these things they don’t even know they can do.”

Malecki said Jovanni’s achievement shows his peers the possibilities of what can be accomplished.

“Kids see what he can do and he tries to work that much harder because he won something,” Malecki said.

Malecki was one of two Manatee County teachers who won two round trip airline tickets courtesy of JetBlue.

The other teacher who won the drawing was Claire Hickman. Two teachers in Sarasota County also won tickets.

Students received cash prizes. Third-place winners received $25, second-place winners got $50, first-place winners $100, and the best-of-show winner $200, Walley said.

Manatee County winners:

n Best of show: Erin Kenney, Southeast High.

n Kindergarten-second grade: first place, Jovanni Gutierrez; second place, Aiden Deitrick; third place, Sophia Berry.

n Third-fifth grade: first place, Katie Carlsen; second place, Michele Cooksey; third place, Kyle Hilbert.

n Sixth-eighth grade: first place, Nina Oterol; second place, Tamera Woods; third place, Carlos Martinez.

n Ninth-12th grade: first place, Ellie Berdusco; second place, Kaitlyn Moore; third place, Paige Lindsay.