2022 Recipients

This is the Foundation’s 15th year of providing scholarships to talented high school,
college and graduate students.

Once again, the Foundation received hundreds of applications from across the
country. Along with their portfolio of work, recipients were chosen based on several
criteria, including financial need, an essay, letters of reference and their school

The Foundation’s guest judges this year were Steve Bodinet, formerly of
KTVK-KPHO, Channel 3, Phoenix and Elise Wilson, of Aspen PRO Media, Arizona.

High School:

Five high school students each received a Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with lenses, memory card, and back pack.

A crowd of protesters in a street
Sydney Allan photo sample

Sydney Allan
McKinney High School
McKinney, Texas

When a photo editor was needed for her yearbook staff, Sydney who had previously only taken pictures as a hobby, accepted the opportunity and, in her words, “never looked back.” What began as a sophomore year elective, grew into a passion. Sydney writes that the position of editor was a challenge as she was still inexperienced after having had only one photography class. According to her yearbook advisor, Yaryzza Lira, she worked countless hours with other student photographers to ensure that they could “create a nationally recognized yearbook.” The fact that Sydney started her own photography business, worked part time after school, and maintained an impressive GPA shows that she takes her responsibilities seriously, points out Georgette Taylor, Sydney’s AP English teacher. She “will be successful because she has the drive, determination, and grit to get things done.” In her essay, Sydney writes of learning to tell stories and conveying the emotions of her subjects through her photos. The images that she submitted, which portray demonstrations taking place in her hometown, show how much she has learned. She has plans to attend an out-of-state college and writes that she is working with her parents to fund half of the yearly cost and wants to graduate debt free.

A man riding a bicycle
Samarah Bentley photo sample

Samarah Bentley
New Orleans Center for Creative Arts
New Orleans, Louisiana

Even though most of Samarah’s high school days were forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she faced the crisis with “a level of grace and fortitude rare among her peers” declares her civics and history teacher, Jinger Whiddon. New Orleans was hit especially hard in March of 2020 due to the large crowds and public gatherings of the annual Mardi Gras season. Required to attend online classes, Samarah was present every day, on time and always responsive and inquisitive, according to Ms. Whiddon. “I am very proud of her and the maturity she exhibited during those difficult days,” she writes. Referring to her photo submissions, which are of various New York City scenes, Samarah explains, “I want to use the power of storytelling to uplift under-seen communities, experiences, and environments.” She also states: “Photography has offered me the room to grow through interactions with others.” Heide Winston, Executive Director of GeauxGirl!, a nonprofit magazine that seeks to inform, inspire, engage and empower teenage girls across New Orleans, writes “She is wise and unafraid beyond her years and able to capture the world the way she sees it and infuse it with social commentary.” Samarah has also won writing contests and even earned the title of New Orleans’ Mayor for a Day.

A child holds up a sign that reads "Protect kids not guns"
Madalen Erez photo sample

Madalen Erez
Coral Springs Charter School
Coral Springs, Florida

In the past, those entering the competition have been students hoping to win a camera for themselves. Last fall, Madalen surprised us by stating “If I received a camera, I would donate it to our (school) newspaper so staff members can move beyond phone photography and start on the path towards becoming photojournalists.” Madalen’s camera skills were advanced enough so that she was able to teach a photojournalism workshop at the district conference. Her journalism teacher, Kim Pekala, points to Madalen’s confident and self-assured presence as the reason she has been “able to serve as the Editor-in- Chief of our school newspaper for two years without any challenge to her leadership.” Madalen is from the Parkland community where the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting devastated the community in 2018. Samantha Novick, another reference, writes, “In a response to the continued gun violence that permeates our country, young student leaders came together to develop March For Our Lives, an organization of young people marching to protest gun violence and demand change.” In Madalen’s words, “As the official staff photographer for the Parkland chapter of March For Our Lives, I document their mission to end the gun violence epidemic.” Her photo submissions taken during a march vividly portray both students and community members’ shared grief and rage.

A person in the dark
Ponette Hamel photo sample

Ponette Hamel
Cardinal Spellman High School
Brockton, Massachusetts

Known around the school campus as “The Spellman Photographer,” Ponette entered this year’s competition as a junior (most of our applicants are seniors). She is so talented that she was even chosen by her school to be a member of the Yearbook Committee, a position usually reserved as a senior-only elective. Her Media and Communications Coordinator, Brenna Roberts explains, “Poe is a true talent.” In sports photography, she “has a way of capturing the moment as it happens and allowing the viewer to feel the emotion and passion in that sport.” Poe’s Theology teacher and junior advisor, Natalie Woods, takes this a step further adding, “She is well-known for being first on the scene to take pictures at sporting events, social events like Semiformal, Prom, and Homecoming, and at events during the day like assemblies.” Poe submitted an assortment of images for the contest including one of two lifeguards photographed behind their station sharing a laugh, a homeless woman smoking, a Hawaiian fire dancer, and one of a fellow photographer in a classic stance. While all different, they each capture their subjects perfectly. As she states in her application essay: “I believe photography is my purpose in life. Specifically, telling people’s stories. Noticing the small details that make up an entire life has beauty to it.”

A person with a crown and their arm in the air
Sarah Ziff photo sample

Sarah Ziff
Thousand Oaks High School
Thousand Oaks, California

Sarah has attended every sporting event and visited every classroom on the campus of her high school and using a camera on loan from her school, she writes, “I’ve peered into the lives of my classmates, capturing the mundane and the momentous moments.” Thomas Smith, English language and composition teacher, draws a parallel between Sarah’s photography during a basketball game and the perspective and focus needed to support a thesis as an English class assignment. He writes, “It was a joy to teach her and to watch as she elevated the way her peers approached class discussions and viewed class topics.” Eric Kamm, a teacher and yearbook advisor, writes that Sarah is mainly self-taught having had no prior camera experience when she started high school. She submitted a variety of images for the competition accompanied by text almost as colorful as the photos. There are action shots of a swimmer and a golfer; a photo of the homecoming king; and a dynamic image of a performer in the spring musical. As Mr. Kamm so eloquently explains it, “Sarah’s photos show us, remind us of being there at the game, being at that dance, laughing at that play, and the emotions of high school life. Sarah makes it look easy.”


Six college students each received a $2,500 scholarship, payable to their school.  Three awards were for video work, and three awards were for still photography.

College Video Awards

Edward Franco video sample

Edward Franco
New York University
New York, New York

Edward Franco, who is only a college sophomore, has already been hired as an intern at NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. According to Sylvan Solloway, the Director of Career Services at NYU’s journalism school, this “is one of the most coveted internships” and Edward is “making his mark at a national network.” She further remarks that he has also “been committed to serving as the video director for NYU’s school newspaper, the Washington Square News, and shooting and editing video content for the paper’s multimedia desk.” Edward, who is a first-generation college student, is passionate about the field, and started doing broadcast journalism in high school. He realized even then how important journalists are, writing in his application essay: “Capturing both the everyday lives of people to the major events in the world on camera is critical to support the building blocks of our history.” The videos he submitted demonstrate his passion and skill. The first one covers protests in New York City following the Dobbs Decision last year, while the second one reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Watergate tapes. Robert R. Kotek, of WKMG-TV, sees a bright future ahead for Edward, saying he “is an intelligent, capable, and personable young man.”

Lauren Scott video sample

Lauren Scott
Hillsdale College
Hillsdale, Michigan

Lauren Scott is passionate about reporting on stories “that have been forgotten, or need to be told for the first time.” She does this through documentary filmmaking, which, as she writes, “has allowed me to tell other people’s stories, and I find no greater blessing than that.” With her first submitted video, she highlights the life of Will Carleton, an often forgotten 19th century poet, who wrote “Over the Hill to the Poorhouse”. Her second piece is about Michael Alex Mossey (a boy who tragically died young) and why her college’s library was named after him, a fact that most students don’t know. Both of these videos are from a class project in which, according to one of Lauren’s professors, Buddy Moorehouse, all of the students were required to do everything … “research, write, shoot footage and interviews, and then edit each of the films themselves.” Lauren not only excelled at this project, but also played an instrumental role in a full-length documentary that her class produced about Elizebeth Smith Friedman, a woman who helped pioneer codebreaking. Tavner Threatt, a former teacher, also talks about Lauren’s kind and giving nature. “She faithfully pursues the good where she finds herself, seeks to preserve, protect, and nurture it.”

Katie Varga video sample

Katie Varga
Utah State University
Logan, Utah

Katie Varga is so determined to get her journalism degree that she is working three jobs while in college – as “a dance teacher, landscaper, a podcast intern, as well as a full-time student.” Brian Champagne, one of Katie’s professors, mentions this in his reference letter, saying that “Katie works several jobs to pay for her education. I’ve had students with fewer demands than hers drop out of our program.” Despite the demanding schedule, she has excelled in his Newscast class, “the toughest class in our program,” and his Multimedia class, “the secondtoughest.” But being a photographer is more than just a future career for Katie. She also loves it. “Many of my classes have felt more like a fun hobby than homework, and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.” Her submitted videos reflect her skill and passion, along with great creativity. The first one is about a student bike service company on campus, whose funding was recently cut, while the second is a ghost-hunting story. The latter video is especially inventive, as it was shot completely in the dark. Chris Garff, another of Katie’s professors, admires her work, writing that she has “an excellent eye for composition and created great content with her strong ideas.”

College Still Awards

Two football players in the end zone of a football game.
Marison Bilagody photo sample

Marison Bilagody
The University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

Marison Bilagody, who is Navajo and grew up on a reservation, has worked hard during college to become a professional sports photographer. Prior to the University of Arizona, he had not taken any photography classes. “Growing up on the reservation, our schools are not the bestfunded schools. We lack many of the art classes that many other of my peers had.” He continues: “Everything I’ve learned, I learned on my own or in class while in college.” To this end, he has secured enviable positions at school with the Arizona Daily Wildcat, covering sports extensively, and with Arizona Athletics. His talent, work ethic, and perseverance has paid off and he consistently creates memorable images, with the ones he submitted to the Foundation consisting of exciting college football shots of both the players and fans. Mike Christy, Director of Photography for the University of Arizona Athletics Department, says that Marison “has proven to be dependable, very communicative, and a problem-solver whose skill level continues to improve.” Kim Newton, one of his professors, also notes that “besides his all-round abilities as a journalist, he is just a wonderful person. He is always available to give a helping hand, advice and support to fellow students and faculty.”

A woman and two children sitting in front of a tractor
Angela LaRosa photo sample

Angela LaRosa
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio

The photos Angela LaRosa submitted to the Foundation are quite diverse, ranging from an image of a family at a farmer’s market to that of a child marching in a protest against gun violence. She also submitted a photo of a woman on the steps of the U.S. Capitol fighting for a bill that would help veterans with life- threatening illnesses associated with their military service. This image is particularly close to Angela’s heart as she covered this story for weeks, with her work culminating in an image of President Biden signing the bill into law. As Matt Westerhold of the Sandusky Register, where Angela interned one summer, proudly noted, she stood on “her toes in the crowded press section” and captured “the meaning of the moment as if she’s been a Washington correspondent for years.” A wonderful image, it truly exemplifies Angela’s belief that “Photography brings so much more to a story, it picks up raw emotions and gives power to storytelling.” Angela did so well as an intern that she was hired full time for one of their sister newspapers. Brandon Addeo, also of the Sandusky Register, said: “In the span of mere weeks, Angela went from ‘the easy stuff ’ … to tackling more difficult reporting — the kind of work handled by our full-time staff.”

A man with a mas standing over a bowl with fire in it
Kristen Yarber photo sample

Kristen Yarber
University of Maryland Global Campus
Adelphi, Maryland

Kristen Yarber is the definition of hardworking and a multitasker. A photojournalist with the U.S. Navy for seven years, she is also attending the University of Maryland Global Campus to obtain her bachelor’s degree in communication studies. As she writes, “Photography and photojournalism have always been my passions, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to do them both while serving my country.” Assigned to Japan in late 2020, the photographs she submitted to the Foundation document life in Japan during COVID. Thomas Smith, a Navy Operations Manager in Tokyo who wrote one of Kristen’s reference letters, writes that she is not only extremely talented, already winning awards for her work, but is capable of shooting a variety of events “ranging from humanitarian aid to disaster relief and emergency/historical documentation.” Michael Hutchinson, a Navy Station Manager in Tokyo, is equally impressed, writing: “She is routinely my first choice for high level projects.” One of these was photographing First Lady Jill Biden on a recent visit. He also notes that Kristen earned a special distinction – a photography certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor – which required 6,000 hours of practice.