Above the influence

JAMESTOWN – The Chautauqua Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Council has named the winner of its 13th annual poster contest.

Ellysa Maze, a sophomore in the Cassadaga Valley Central School district, was named the grand-prize winner of CASAC’s yearly contest aimed at raising youth awareness regarding the dangers of alcohol abuse.

The annual CASAC poster contest is open to all Chautauqua County students in grades 3 through 12. This year’s contest – with a theme of, “What Keeps Me Above the Influence?” – received more than 300 submissions for consideration.

According to Billie Jean Hubert, associate director of CASAC, the contest is hosted in conjunction with April as Alcohol Awareness Month.

“For young students to start drinking alcohol in their teenage years, their brains aren’t fully developed yet,” Hubert said. “So it’s very important for them to understand that the longer they delay their first drink of alcohol, the better chance they have of developing a healthy future for themselves. And the CASAC poster contest brings awareness to this issue.”

Hubert said students of Jamestown Community College art professor Yu Kanazawa volunteered to do the preliminary judging that eliminated all but 12 finalists, each of which was present during the awards ceremony held in the James Prendergast Library’s fireplace room.

The finalists were grouped by grade into three categories of four. Category A consisted of grades 3-5, category B consisted of grades 6-8, and category C consisted of grades 9-12. Each category had a first-, second- and third-place award, and two honorable mention awards were also given.

In category A were: Kristen DeBicki, a Sinclairville Elementary School fifth-grader, who received first place; Ryan Malarkey, a Jefferson Middle School fifth-grader, who received second place; Britta Watkins, a Bemus Point Elementary School third-grader, who received third place; and Molly Shafer, a Southwestern Elementary School fourth-grader, who received an honorable mention.

In category B were: Sarah Marucci, a Jefferson Middle School eighth-grader, who received first place; Michael Quigley, a Washington Middle School eighth-grader, who received second place; Mika Walters, a Southwestern Middle School sixth-grader, who received third place; and Johnathan Cooper, a Robert H. Jackson Elementary School sixth-grader, who received an honorable mention.

In addition to Ellysa, category C also included: Meagan Tyler, a Pine Valley Central School senior, who received first place; Katherine Graczyk, a Sherman Central School junior, who received second place; and Alyssa Caskey, a Cassadaga Valley Central School sophomore, who received third place.

The finalists’ submissions were judged by four respected community members, including: Vince Horrigan, Chautauqua County executive; Angie Peck, community involvement leader for Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant; Patricia Brinkman, director of Chautauqua County Mental Hygiene; and Heather Miller, adjunct art professor at JCC.

Horrigan said judging the contest was a difficult task.

“To look at these incredible posters, which reflect not only artistic talent but also reflect an important message, is something that motivates me,” Horrigan said. “This is about young people who understand the message of the dangers of alcohol, and have put their talents to use, and it’s a great honor for me to be able to celebrate the incredible number of posters that were created by the young leaders in our community. Everybody’s a winner and, for our community, these are the young people who set the example.”

Students who received honorable mentions received $15, third-place winners received $20, second-place winners received $25 and first-place winners received $50. Ellysa’s winning poster earned her $100, and will eventually be on display on several billboards throughout Chautauqua County.

The 2014 CASAC poster contest was sponsored by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant.