South Lake student’s artwork earns first place at Chapman’s Holocaust Art and Writing Contest

A South Lake Middle School student has won first place in the art category of the 13th annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest.

Raeanne Guidry-Smith’s image of Holocaust survivor Rose Toren was named tops in the middle school division on March 2 during a poignant awards ceremony at Chapman University. On hand were a number of those who inspired the students’ work as witnesses to one of history’s darkest chapters.

“I didn’t think I was going to win at all,” said Raeanne, and in fact she conceded that wasn’t her main objective. “My goal throughout this whole thing was just to make it to Chapman (as a finalist) so I could meet some of the Holocaust survivors.”

In addition to earning a $500 prize, Raeanne will be able to take an all-expense-paid study trip in June to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — as well as other sites in Washington, D.C. — with a parent and her humanities teacher, Brooke Stevens. South Lake’s Colette Cosyn was also named a finalist in the competition.

Sponsored by the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, the Holocaust Art and Writing Contest represents an educational partnership with The “1939” Club, one of the largest and most active Holocaust survivor organizations in the nation. The event is also supported by the Samueli Foundation, as well as Yossie and Dana Hollander.

More than 4,000 students participated in the 2012 competition from as far away as Santiago, Chile, submitting poetry, prose and art, according to Stevens. As in years past, the highlight of the contest was its moving awards program, which connected students, teachers and parents with those who hold the Holocaust as a tragic memory rather than a history lesson.

Raeanne said she was personally inspired to meet the survivors, who, despite enduring unimaginable horrors, exuded warmth and seemed to embrace life’s joys.

“It was cool,” the self-taught artist said. “They were happy, which surprised me.”