Mercantil Commercebank, one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida, announced the winners of its 2015 Zoolens Photography Project during an awards ceremony at the Bank’s Coral Gables headquarters. The Dec. 10 event was emceed by Ron Magil, Zoo Miami’s director of communications and Nikon Ambassador.
Developed in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoo Miami Foundation, Mercantil Commercebank’s Zoolens Photography Project was designed to foster awareness of wildlife among Miami-Dade County middle school students. The contest encourages them to creatively photograph their favorite Zoo Miami animal and submit their best photo for a chance to win prizes.
The 2015 project ran throughout October and included an exclusive event at Zoo Miami for participating students to enjoy a private tour, up-close animal interactions and wildlife photography tips from Ron Magill. Pitman Photo Supply also offered gift certificates for free photo printing.
“Our Zoolens photography contest once again showcased the inspiring talent and creativity of local middle school students, while building wildlife awareness throughout our community,” said Mercantil Commercebank president and COO Al Peraza. “We are pleased by the growth of this educational initiative each year, as we continue to receive more and more submissions from students throughout Miami-Dade County.”
At the culmination of the contest, more than 300 entries were reviewed — in the areas of composition, artistic merit, technical ability, and title — by a panel of judges. The distinguished group included Ron Magill, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell, internationally acclaimed photo artist María Martínez-Cañas, New World School of the Arts visual arts professor and curator Rosario Martínez-Cañas, WPLG-Local 10 anchor and animal advocate Jacey Birch, and Grizzel Gonzalez of Mercantil Commercebank.
During the ceremony, the 30 finalists’ photographs were displayed and Magill announced the talented winners.
First place went to Tristin Bolles from Westminster Christian School for her photo titled Motherly Love. Tristin received a $2,000 Mercantil Commercebank savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
Second place went to Camila Mejia from South Miami K-8 Center with her entry titled Hide and Seek. Camila received a $1,500 savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
Third place went to Cassandra Lopez from Herbert A. Ammons Middle School for her photo titled Guess Who? Cassandra received a $1,000 savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
The grand prize winners’ schools also will receive a donation from Mercantil Commercebank.
For the first time, Mercantil Commercebank also presented the Zoolens Fans’ Choice Award, which was determined through votes on the Zoolens Facebook page. Camila Destefano from Doral Academy Preparatory Middle School received 765 “likes” for her photo titled I Wanna Be and was presented a $100 Visa Gift Card.
Additionally during the ceremony, 10 honorable mentions were revealed and awarded a $100 Visa Gift Card.
Remaining finalists were awarded iTunes gift cards courtesy of Mercantil Commercebank in appreciation of their participation. The 30 finalists each received an honorary medal from the Miami-Dade County School Board.
The 2015 Zoolens Photography Project Awards Ceremony was attended by more than 150 individuals, including students and their families and teachers, as well as several contest judges.