Annual photo contest raises awareness on the importance of local water issues

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Throughout the summer, a rotating exhibit of winning and non-winning photos from the eleventh Annual High School Water Colors Photo Contest can be seen in the lobby of the Helix Administration Office at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.  Judged by professional photographers and Helix staff, winners were announced and presented with their awards by the Helix Water District Board of Directors and chosen in categories of black and white, color and Best in Show.

Throughout the summer, a rotating exhibit of winning and non-winning photos from the eleventh Annual High School Water Colors Photo Contest can be seen in the lobby of the Helix Administration Office at 7811 University Avenue in La Mesa.  Judged by professional photographers and Helix staff, winners were announced and presented with their awards by the Helix Water District Board of Directors and chosen in categories of black and white, color and Best in Show.

Designed to raise awareness of the importance of water issues within the high school community, the highly successful contest has proven to be very popular and has grown rapidly since its inception.   El Cajon Valley senior, Rand Al Urfali took the grand prize of Best in Show with her color photo entry titled “CD with Water Drops”.  Urfali, a four-year refugee from Iraq, said she was extremely excited to have been chosen for the award that also came with a $250.00 prize.

“This year I began to love photography, but I’ve always loved art and drawing, ever since I was a six years old “, said Urfali, adding that she and her family are originally from Baghdad.  “My parents and I were very surprised, but are proud and very happy.”

Kate Breece, Helix Water District Public Affairs manager, originated the photography contest and explained its evolution over the years.

“The first year, there were only 11 entries. This year, however, we’ve had over 136, with entries from many participating high schools within the District. The theme of the photo contest highlights the importance of water in San Diego. Students can capture water or lack of water, such as a dry riverbed as their subject. Over the years, we’ve seen such a distinct upgrade in quality of photos and this year was truly exceptional,” Breece said adding that the Board enjoys the contest immensely and looks forward to the originality and beauty that the students capture in their photos.

Breece said each applicant can submit up to three entries in color or black and white photo categories and that all high schools within the Helix Water District are eligible to participate in the annual contest with prize awards ranging in $250.00 for Best in Show to $100.00 for third prize. 

“I appreciate what teachers do to get students involved and the winners always bring mom and dad and their principal,” Breeze said.

El Cajon Valley High School Teacher Matt Rubasco, taught art and photography for 20 years and said that the school has participated in the photo contest since its inception.

“Last year, we also had a winner. This year, Rand Al Urfali, a senior from our class, took Best in Show. She was thrilled. Her mom was there. All the kids were sitting at the Boardroom. There was a lot of surprise and anticipation as other category winners were being announced. I could never have guessed. It’s the pinnacle of being a teacher when a student achieves something like this,” said Rubasco.

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