More than 500 contestants from all 50 states and Puerto Rico entered the contest that required them to submit six photographs to create a portfolio with the theme of ‘Storytelling Through the Lens.’ Contestants also had to submit a 500- to 800-word explaining their purpose and intent of producing the work and explaining the photographs.
Katrina Clevenger, 19, was the grand prize winner, winning a tuition scholarship worth $40,000 towards studying photography at one of 45 Art Institutes nationwide. She is planning to study at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, beginning in July. Assistant Director of Admissions Taryn Thomas said this is the first time a student from the Indianapolis school has won a national scholarship competition.
“We are all so proud of Katrina’s accomplishments here at A.I. Indy,” Thomas said.
For the contest, Katrina submitted six photos of her older sister, Kelli Jones, 23, who has Down syndrome. For the essay, Katrina wrote about having a sister with a disability.
In addition to her sister’s disability, Katrina is familiar with several types of disabilities. Her adopted sister has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Katrina, herself, has dyslexia. She routinely reads and writes letters of the alphabet upside down, writing “habby pirthqay” instead of “happy birthday.” To illustrate her struggles with dyslexia: While addressing her recent graduation invitations, Katrina mistakenly addressed several aunts as “anuts.”
At Bremen Public Schools, Katrina took advantage of opportunities given her the special education resource room. Although she initially failed the math test required for graduation, she was given additional math assistance and when she re-took the test, she scored the second highest of any student in the test’s history at Bremen High School.
In her photo and written essay about her sister, Katrina stressed that Kelli, too, is intelligent, but just needs more time to show it.
From a very early age, Katrina has learned to accept adversity. When she was just two years old, her mother, the late Starrene Clevenger of Plymouth, was murdered. Four years passed before her killer, Ed Hosch, confessed and lead police to her body.
Katrina is the daughter of James and Linda Clevenger, of Bremen. Kelli is also the daughter of Joe Jones of Bremen.
This is the written essay, and these are the photographs, submitted by Katrina.
Kelli with 47 Chromosomes
By Katrina Clevenger
Born each year are 6,000 new babies with Down syndrome. There are more than 400,000 people with Down syndrome living in the United States. And out of all those people is my sister, Kelli. Kelli Joe Ann Jones was born December 10, 1988. Kelli, like all people with Down syndrome, was born with 47 chromosomes instead of 46. Kelli was born the way she is because it was meant to be. And the people who know Kelli, even if they only meet her once, love her the way she is.
Someone with Down syndrome has a lot of different features. They have a “Simian crease,” a single crease across both palms of the hands. I have always been interested in Kelli’s hands because of the Simian line. When I was little I would always try to get that line, like Kelli’s, across my hands but of course I couldn’t. A short stature is a feature of a person with Down syndrome, I have almost always been taller than Kelli which is normal. My sister has always been different but in our family, everyone has something special about them.
Many people believe that someone with Down syndrome doesn’t belong. But in reality we need them in our lives. My sister is like everyone else. She graduated high school, goes to work, has a phone, and even has her own Facebook page. I believe she is smarter than the average person, you just need to give her time. My sister can remember every friend that I have ever had, and she remembers their birthdays. My sister is a blessing to have in my life. She makes me smile just being herself while most “normal” people have a problem just being happy. They look at life in a better way than those without Down syndrome.
Though Kelli’s life has had some hard times, she always made it. On her 15th birthday she was stuck in a hospital because she had blood clots in her brain. She made it out of the hospital just fine and was able to go on with life. But her biggest challenge is judgmental people. She is judged because she is different and most people don’t understand how important she is. She has been called names like “retard,” “stupid,” and many more. She doesn’t deserve that disrespect. We are all different and have something wrong or abnormal about us. Why should Kelli be treated any differently? And though people treat her this way, Kelli is happy, free spirit, and not easy to be pulled down.
Kelli is someone I would love to be. She makes life look easy, fun, and carefree. And most of the time I need to look at the world the way Kelli does. It’s like she has the love of her family and that’s all she needs to live. Being Kelli’s sister is the best job in the world because she reminds me of what life is really all about: Love and happiness. Kelli loves everyone and cares for everyone even when they don’t care for her. Kelli inspires me to be a better person to people who are different or have something abnormal about them.
Down syndrome people are meant to be in this world and make it a better place. Even when the world is harsh and unforgivable, people with Down Syndrome are here to brighten our day. I will always be so thankful that my sister is in my life and in the world.