Mercantil Bank, one of the largest banks headquartered in Florida, recently celebrated the 2018 launch of its annual Zoolens Photography Project.
Developed in partnership with Zoo Miami and the Zoological Society of Florida, the bank’s month-long contest encourages middle school students of both public and private schools in Miami-Dade County to visit Zoo Miami to creatively photograph their favorite animal for a chance to win a range of prizes.
In celebration of the project, Mercantil Bank hosted a special event for students on Feb. 3 at Zoo Miami where students joined noted wildlife photographer Ron Magill, Nikon Ambassador and Zoo Miami’s director of communications, for an exciting behind-the-scenes tour where they enjoyed exclusive animal experiences and wildlife photography tips.
Nikon representatives provided access to loaner digital Nikon photography equipment for up to 30 students. Additionally, representatives from Pitman Photo Supply were on hand to offer gift cards to participants.
Established in 2010 as part of Mercantil Bank’s commitment to supporting the arts, the Zoolens Photography Project aims to bolster wildlife awareness among middle school students by engaging their artistic abilities through an educational photography program.
The 2018 project runs through Mar. 2. Students interested in participating in the contest must submit an original photograph of a Zoo Miami animal before 5 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 2. Submissions can be made through a student’s school or by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional guidelines are available at Zoolens.com.
A panel of distinguished judges will then choose three grand prize winners and 10 honorable mentions, which will be announced at an awards ceremony on Thursday, Apr. 19. The winner will receive a $2,000 savings account, second place will receive a $1,500 savings account, and third place, a $1,000 savings account. The top three finishers also will receive a professional camera and student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
Additionally, their respective schools will receive a donation courtesy of Mercantil Bank and the 10 honorable mentions will receive a $100 Visa Gift Card.
The bank also will conduct a “Zoolens Fans’ Choice” social media contest via the Zoolens Facebook page where a photo album of the top 30 finalists’ submissions will be posted to the page in mid-March and open to all page followers for voting.
“Zoolens has become one of the most anticipated art education programs in Miami, furthering our longstanding commitment to support the arts and positively impact the community,” said Al Peraza, president and COO of Mercantil Bank. “We’d like to thank Ron Magill and Zoo Miami, all the participating sponsors, schools, teachers and parents who have helped grow the program throughout the years. We look forward to another successful year.”
In 2016, Angelyn Castillo from Doral Academy took first place for her photo titled “Nature at its Finest.” Castillo received a $2,000 Mercantil Bank savings account, a professional camera and a student membership to the North American Nature Photography Association.
“I am thrilled to continue to be involved in this program and am honored to share animal facts and photography tips with enthusiastic students who are eager to learn about photography and our world’s wildlife,” Magill said. “It is so inspiring to see the creative photos that are submitted each year and can’t wait to see this year’s submissions.”