St Louis area students win Walgreens Expressions Challenge

Walgreens executives award St. Louis area contest winners of Walgreens Expressions Challenge Jan. 27 at Busch Stadium. Shown are Pam Marshall, district manager, Austin Valenti, Kane Kutubig , Jasymn Diggs, Brianna Brock, Naila Taylor, Cecil Wong, director of Pharmacy and Retail Operations, Alderwoman Marlene Davis, and motivational speaker and author, Tony Thompson. Back row: John Gremer, director of Community Affairs, Scott Hoselton, district manager, Dane Lester, John Nelson, Joi McClain, and Courtney Bryant, KMOV-TV news anchor.

Out of 2,000 applicants, nine St. Louis area high school students earned honors and prize money for their individual creative talent during the Walgreens Expressions Challenge awards ceremony, January 27 at the Cardinals Club at Busch Stadium.

Through creative writing, visual arts and multimedia, students voiced their perspectives on challenges faced by teenagers. The contest accepted submissions from October 1 through November 30. More than 2,000 teens from St. Louis and Chicago submitted entries on topics that affect their peer group, while attempting to help other teens make healthy decisions for their future.

First place winners include Naila Taylor from Show Me Arts Academy, in Creative Writing, for “Learning to Love Me, The Weed,” a poem about the importance of self-esteem. For Multimedia, Kane Katubig, Austin Valenti, Dane Lester and John Nelson from Francis Howell High School took first place for a video submission on suicide called “Silence is Deadly.” In Visual Arts, Jasmyn Diggs from Metro Academic and Classical High School, won first place for “The Eye of the Beholder,” a painting about how far a girl will go to find beauty. First place winners won a $2,000 prize.

Second place winners include Brianna Brock from McCluer South-Berkeley High School, in Creative Writing, for “That Girl,” about the pervasiveness of bullying. Joi McClain from Metro Academic and Classical High School won second place in Multimedia for “Backseat Driver,” a poem about sexual abuse. Kelsie N. Goliday from University City High School took second in Visual Arts for “Pieces,” a paint and color pencil piece about depression. Second place honorees each won $1,250.

“This challenge is important for students like me because it is a way for us to speak up and give our opinions through the arts,” said Brianna Brock. “It's also a good way to let someone know what you may have experienced and show others how to handle tough situations. Sometimes knowing someone else's story helps us make better decisions.”

“The Walgreens Expressions Challenge is important because it transcends an ordinary competition by allowing applicants to see and appreciate others’ submissions,” said Joi McClain. “Emphasizing the ‘Expressions’ instead of the ‘Challenge’ in Walgreens Expressions Challenge pushes students like me out of our comfort zones and into a space where we can celebrate the power of self-expression with fellow high school students and artists.”

“The rate of suicide is rising, and one of my friends killed himself two days after his birthday,” said Kane Katubig. “I felt this was my way of coping with it.”

The keynote speaker for the awards program was Tony Thompson, an entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker and founder and CEO of Tony Thompson, Inc.; a corporation focused on youth and entrepreneurial empowerment. Thompson also created "The Catalyst," a mentoring program that serves young people of all ages, schools, and backgrounds.

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