Art contest celebrates students with disabilities

Second-place winner Jasmine Ramirez hugs her art teacher at Saugus High School, Dan Nickels, after receiving her award from the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities at AMS Fulfillment in Valencia on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal
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Young artists were recognized for their talent at the inaugural art contest hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities on Wednesday.

The competition sought to bring awareness to the skill and work ethic of teens with disabilities across the SCV in hopes that employers of local businesses would be encouraged to hire more people who are differently-abled.

“We don’t want businesses to just make one effort,” committee Chair Ken Wiseman said. “We want them to do that every year.”

Wiseman, who is also the CEO of AMS Fulfillment, said he encourages young people with disabilities to enter the workforce and use their skills to better the community.

From right to left, first-place winner Stephanie Kamel, second-place winner Jasmine Ramirez and third-place winner Mason Kinsella stand after receiving their awards for the art contest held by the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities at AMS Fulfillment in Valencia on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

“Hopefully some of you that did the artwork will someday share that creativity with us and become employees at AMS,” Wiseman said.

Open to teens with disabilities, the contest garnered 19 art pieces from students across the valley and captured each competitor’s personal style. About 50 local business representatives chose among the entries and voted on their favorites to choose the winners.

Transitional Learning Center third-year student Stephanie Kamel took home first place and a $500 check for herself and an additional $500 for her school.

The 19-year-old’s piece featured a flower that read “educate,” “empower” and “employ,” which is the committee’s motto, on each of the petals with ladders climbing up the stem to achieve success.

Sixteen-year-old Mason Kinsella from Golden Valley High School accepts his cash award of $100 after winning third place in the art contest put on by the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities at AMS Fulfillment in Valencia on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. From right to left, Sal Frias, the principle at Golden Valley, Ken Wiseman, the chair of the committee and Anna Bettencourt, a committee member, stand next to Kinsella. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

“All I want to do is reach up to my goals,” Kamel said. “I want to be on top of the flower.”

Her piece will be copied, framed and given to businesses across the valley who hire those with disabilities to showcase in their offices.

After finishing school, Kamel hopes to become an animator for television and movies.

Winning first place validated Kamel’s accomplishments as an artist, according to Matt Tapia, her teacher’s aide.

Showcasing students’ artistic talents helps bring awareness to how capable those with disabilities are, he said.

The artists in the contest stand in front of the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities at AMS Fulfillment in Valencia on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

“(The competition) clues them into the community and exposes the community to them,” Tapia said. “They have abilities and they are resourceful.”

Hosting the competition will allow businesses to familiarize themselves with students with disabilities and provide them with employment opportunities, according to Anna Bettencourt, a member of the committee.

“The purpose is for businesses to realize that those with special needs can hold and maintain jobs just like everyone else,” Bettencourt said.

Among the artists, second place went to Jasmine Ramirez of Saugus High School, who won $250 for herself and her school, and third place went to Mason Kinsella, who got $100 for himself and Golden Valley High School.

Other participants included Philip Acosta, Richard Ayala, Elias Barrera, Mark Bryant, Trinity Contreras, Eric Garcia, Lathan Gordon, Christian Gutierrez, Amelia Hines, Cameron Marino, Jesus Najera, Anja Meier-Nava, Richard Nitsche, Brandon Peraza, Joseph Romero and Edward Trueblood.

Jasmine Ramirez from Saugus High School accepts her cash award of $250 from committee member Anna Bettencourt after winning second place in the art contest put on by the Santa Clarita Valley Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Individuals with Disabilities at AMS Fulfillment in Valencia on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

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