EAST TAMPA — A picture is worth a thousand words, but maybe even more for some students at Van Buren Middle School.
In October, 24 students were selected to participate in the "What I Like Best About My Community" Third Annual Youth Heritage Photo Contest. Each student was handed a disposable camera and, after a brief training session, took off to take pictures of his or her neighborhood for two weeks.
"They really took to heart the instruction given," said Latonya Anderson, Van Buren's assistant principal. "It shows them a creative outlet and to be proud of where they come from and what they have accomplished."
Natasha Joseph took first place in the contest, winning a $1,000 savings bond for her picture of a girl caught jumping in midair with her legs kicked back, hands in her pockets and a wide grin.
Tavanda Cannon won a $500 bond for her photo of billowing clouds reflecting a spectrum. Third place winner Eddie Lee's picture of kids on a neighborhood street earned him a $250 savings bond.
Those photos and others taken by students at Van Buren are on display at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts through Feb. 14 in Gallery C.
One school is selected annually to participate in the contest, which is sponsored by the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Verizon and BlueCross BlueShield of Florida.
The contest came about as the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs searched for ways to give at-risk youth a means of positive expression. Members settled on a photography contest, a hands-on activity that allowed students to explore their neighborhoods. Van Buren, at 8715 N 22nd St., participated this year for the first time.
A committee narrowed submissions by choosing each student's best photo, then the top three.
"The kids are looking forward to the exhibit. They're very proud of their work," said Ken Anthony, a board member of the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival.