Kind is cool.
Winning Graphics Student of the Year is even cooler.
That honor goes to Batavia junior Sarah Anderson who won the annual Valley Education for Employment System (VALEES) competition on Apr. 24 at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove with her “Kind is cool” campaign.
“I guess I wasn’t really expecting to win,” she said. “I didn’t want to have such high hopes and end up disappointing myself.”
VALEES is a regional delivery system that serves 17 school districts, two area career/vocational centers, one special education cooperative and Waubonsee Community College.
None of the competitors should have gone home disappointed as the judges praised the work of all eight participants who came from Batavia, Oswego and Oswego East High Schools, the Fox Valley Career Center (Kaneland) and Indian Valley Vocational Center (Hinckley-Big Rock), and acknowledged that choosing a winner was difficult.
“I’m impressed with all of them,” said Josh Wilson, one of the judges and a freelance designer. “This year’s crop is even better than last year and I don’t say that to take away anything from last year.”
The competition centered on the creation of a kindness campaign. Participants were instructed that a fictitious school district would like to implement a campaign about kindness that targets bullying at all of its schools with a single campaign slogan that works for all ages of students and in various marketing materials. The campaign should be fun and inspiring so that it helps students understand how kindness and understanding can stop things like bullying and related fears in the schools.
“I like how I can impact people’s lives with a poster design and things like that,” Anderson said. “Through our designs we’re able to spread a message throughout our community and change lives.”
She said the project was the biggest one she’s ever completed and that her usual assignments are posters or another one-off. This time she had a lot of different elements to think about when choosing her campaign.
“It took me a while to come up with the idea, but I’m really proud of it,” she said. “I like the idea of how kindness has a ripple effect so that’s what I wanted to represent, so that’s what you see with all the ripple elements.”
Julia Dauskurdas also represented Batavia, and chose to go galactical with “The science of kindness.”
“I didn’t want to make it a childish thing like when you’re five and you go play outside and include your friends at recess,” she said. “And people like science and space.”
Ideally, most would be able to find kindness on Earth rather than having to go to a galaxy, far, far away, thanks to Dauskurdas’ kindness campaign.
“We painted our library using a similar color scheme so I used that for inspiration with all the sunsets and sunrises,” Dauskurdas said. “Even though there are oranges and purples, it doesn’t clash and there’s an aura to it and it all fades into it.”
Kaneland’s Hope Novack has progressed from fine arts to graphic arts during her time in the Fox Valley Career Center in Maple Park.
“Someone suggested Mrs. (Nicole) Larsen’s class (graphic communications) since it’s kind of related to art and I just fell in love with the class and the teacher,” she said. “So it’s something I do now.”
Novack was stressed out at first in trying to complete her campaign, but after finishing it and sharing it with judges and her peers, she felt a sense of relief.
“I think I probably re-worked all these posters at least three times,” she said. “Even last night I was changing things. It’s just really hard to pinpoint, but I had this vision that I could make small changes on some things.”
Kaneland senior Adrian Almaraz, who plans on pursuing creative advertising at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said he had a great experience.
“The whole experience was kind of humbling,” he said. “It was nice just to see how great other designers are around my area and to see how everyone has different styles and we can implement that to make things better and become better at graphic design. I learned a lot today.”
Anderson followed in the footsteps of Batavia graduates Haley Stein (2018) and Claire Hammack (2017) who were named Graphics Student of the Year the past two years.
“I love the process of this event because it gives the students a chance to take ownership of a real world project,” Batavia graphic arts teacher Kathleen Tieri Ton said. “And then having to share it in a professional setting to me is the best part. I love to see a student like Sarah acknowledged for her commitment to her learning in the field of graphic arts. And it comes through in all of her work and I think the judges saw that today in the consistency of her project and the professionalism of her portfolio.”