Winners of 2011 Zoolens photo project announced

Alex Waller’s photo Feed Me earned third place and a $1,000 savings account.

Mercantil Commercebank, one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida, announced the winners of the 2011 Zoolens Photography Project during a recent awards ceremony at the bank’s headquarters in Coral Gables.

The photography contest, in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoological Society of Florida (ZSF), was open to all Miami-Dade County eighth grade students, and designed to help build awareness for the world’s wildlife through photography.

The contest ran from Oct. 15 through Nov. 15, 2011, during which time participating students were asked to take a photograph of an animal at Zoo Miami and submit it either through their teacher or at a Mercantil Commercebank banking center.

The bank received an overwhelming number of entries. A panel of distinguished judges chose first, second and third place finishers, along with 10 honorable mentions. The top three for the 2011 Zoolens Photography Contest are:

First place: Clarissa Napoles from West Miami Middle for her photo titled Dancing to Different Tunes. She received a $2,000 savings account.

Second place: I Haven’t Forgotten, by Thomas Hoyos from St. Lawrence, who received a $1,500 savings account.

Third place: Feed Me by Alex Waller from Herbert Ammons Middle, who received a $1,000 savings account. The top three finishers also received a digital camera, a membership to the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), as well as a donation to their school. In addition, these students will be recognized on the Zoolens website (, the Zoolens Facebook page, Zoological Society of Florida e-Newsletter Toucan Talk and the Zoo Miami website.

“We are thrilled with the unprecedented response we received from Miami-Dade County eighth grade students and teachers,” said Millar Wilson, president and CEO of Mercantil Commercebank. “Providing students with the chance to experience one of the world’s great zoos and interact with wildlife in this manner has been exceptionally rewarding for all of us at the Bank. In addition, Zoolens provides students with a program to express their creativity through photography, while supporting their artistic endeavors and strengthening education. It is a true win/win for all.”

The awards ceremony was attended by nearly 100 students and their families, as well as Ron Magill, emcee and director of communications at Zoo Miami, who also served as one of the expert judges. The 2011 Zoolens panel of judges included internationally acclaimed photo-artist María Martínez-Cañas; New World School of the Arts Visual Arts professor and curator Rosario Martínez-Cañas; renowned Miami Herald photographer Carl Juste, and Zoological Society board member and Mercantil Commercebank vice president Grizzel Gonzalez.

Also in attendance at the event was executive vice president and CFO of Mercantil Commercebank, Al Peraza; Miami Dade County Public School Board vice chair Lawrence Feldman; ZSF president and CEO Ben Pinagree, and vice president of development for the ZSF Cindi Eisaman.

For additional information on the 2011 Zoolens Photography Project, visit or Facebook/Zoolens.

For more information on Zoo Miami visit

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