South Tahoe High School students receive national honors for photography |

South Tahoe High School students receive national honors for photography

Sebastian Foltz
A Paiute tribe member sits on a hillside during the tribal powwow in Bishop, California, titled "People Who Came Before."
Courtesy / Christian Palacio |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Nine aspiring photographers from South Tahoe High School’s photography club were recently awarded national accolades as part of the National Scholastics Art Contest’s western regional competition. Of those Kiva McCollum, Annika Johnson, Christian Palacios and Tatum Whatford each earned first place gold awards. Their photos will move on to be judged nationally in New York with a chance to be honored and displayed at Carnegie Hall.

Jackson Kuzmik, Mikayla Heffner, Emily Doyle, Rachel Aronoff and Alle Balme each received silver honorable mentions.

According to school photography instructor and club founder Candi Lincoln, roughly 30,000 submissions were considered in the 13-state Western Regional Art Contest with South Tahoe’s submissions finishing in the top 1-3 percent of entries.

“It’s really exciting. I didn’t expect it,” 10th grader Annika Johnson said of the award. “If makes me feel more official (as a photographer).”

All four winning submissions featured shots from the annual Paiute tribal powwow in Bishop, California.

“We’re the official photographers for the powwow,” Lincoln said of the now annual trip.

In addition to the powwow, the club — entirely funded through grants from Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation, El Dorado Community Foundation and other donations — also plans photography trips to San Francisco and Yosemite.

“None of the funds come from the school,” Lincoln explained. “It’s all grants.”

Describing what she’s seen from her student’s work, she said, “It’s professional grade without a doubt.”

Members of the group spent last weekend in San Francisco along with Lake Tahoe Community College photography professor Pat Leonard-Heffner to photograph Chinese New Year in China Town.

“I think they’re producing amazing works,” Leonard-Heffner said of the students. “I really hope some of them come here to college.”

She further described the San Francisco trip as “life changing” for the students, adding, “A lot of the students here may not have that opportunity (otherwise). She’s giving them a lot of experiences.”

Lincoln hopes to raise funds to send the winning student photographers to New York for a National Scholastics Art Contest celebratory ball in June at Carnegie Hall.

Additional student photos can be seen at

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