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Library Contest Brings Out Peculiarity in Teens

By Corrina Taylor, BubbleLife Intern

The bright blue of the Converse shoe drastically stands out from the white canvas. The tip of the shoe to the laces maintains its form. The heel erupts into a splatter of colors and melted rubber. The photo is by New Tech High@Coppell sophomore Alexandria Martinez, the winner of the William T. Cozby Library Peculiar Photo Contest.

This photo contest is a part of the library’s Between the Lines program. Every year, the library chooses a book for the teens in the community to read and then engage in various activities. Last year was the first year for Between the Lines, and their debuting book was The Hunger Games, which brought a lot of popularity to the program.

“It is really cool and rewarding to see teens who never come to the other programs show up and read this book,” William T. Cozby librarian Lilia Gant said. “We had regulars start coming during The Hunger Games that have showed up to other teen events. It is a cool new way to meet other teens in the community.”

Instead of choosing a book similar to The Hunger Games, the library decided to choose a book from a completely different genre – something peculiar. Thus, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was chosen as this year’s Between the Lines book.

Activities included a trivia game, a writing contest and a photo contest. A majority of the contestants in the photo contest came from New Tech High teacher Tamera Mooney’s digital photography class.

“[The class] wanted more projects to do that were real and did not seem fake,” Martinez said. “When it is just a project, we do not try as much. Since it was a competition, we try even more and end up with something really cool.”

Once the photos were submitted, they were posted on the William T. Cozby Library’s teen Facebook page for the public to like. The photo with the most “likes” was the winner, and the runners-up were the ones that tied.

“It was really cool. It was the first time I did anything with photography, and I never thought I would be good at something like this,” New Tech High freshman and runner-up Samantha Finglass said. “It was really cool to get the photos voted on by the public instead of the academy or teachers.”

Mooney made the photo contest a project for her digital photography class to give them more real world experience and a different type of project. In preparation for the contest, Mooney introduced peculiarity in art history and taught the class about surrealism.

“For the first grade, [the students] had to turn in three pictures one week and then three improved pictures the next week,” Mooney said. “You cannot just take three pictures – you have to take 50 for one to turn out good.”

Mooney’s class had three of the four runner-ups and the grand winner. The runner-ups will receive a large poster signed by the author, and Martinez will receive a poster, a $5 Sonic card and her own photo album with different prints and scrapbooking material for her photos.

The contest ended up being more about winning. It gave the students experience with real world projects and challenged them to explore different types of photography. Before taking pictures, Mooney’s students interviewed people on what they believed was peculiar.

Some students, including Martinez, looked up photography skills and learned Photoshop skills in order to create their peculiar photos.

“After we finished, we had a party in photography where we compared our pictures from the beginning of the year to the photos in the contest,” New Tech High sophomore and runner-up Arath Paneet said. “There was much improvement. I feel accomplished, and you can actually tell that we have grown as photographers. It served as the bridge to cross to get to a certain point in our photography skills.”

But the fun is not over yet. The library still has one contest left: the writing contest. On the Facebook page, three peculiar photos are posted, and the objective for the students is to write a story using those photos.

Free copies of the book are still available at the library and include a foldout poster of the book. All teens are welcome to explore reading for fun and to connect with other teens over books.