Friday, June 25, 2010

Courtney DeWitt Remembered in Student Photography Exhibit

In December of 2006, Wells High School student Courtney DeWitt, a sophomore, was just 15 years old when she passed away from injuries received in a car accident. The accident happened after school as she, a passenger in a car, was bound for home, a short distance away.
According to her mother Joleen, Courtney displayed a developing love of photography. She enjoyed experimenting in the digital format. In honor of Courtney and her budding passion for taking photos, the library at Wells Junior High School in conjunction with the WJHS Student Council held a photography contest for students in April. On June 9th, a weeklong exhibit of those photos, including an assortment taken by Courtney, opened for public viewing.
Present at the exhibit’s reception and opening were Courtney’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Corey DeWitt, and their daughter Michaela. For the past school year, Michaela has been an eighth grade student at WJHS. In the fall she will enter Wells High School as a freshman.
On the walls of this vast third floor library were 120 photos, most from the contest and a handful of “courtesy” photographs. There were also numerous photos taken by Courtney displayed in a section dedicated to her. Joleen DeWitt said that many of the photos in Courtney’s display came from her bedroom wall and door.
Photos in the exhibit reflected the categories from the contest. Students focused their cameras on animals, nature, pre-teen/teen scenes, school scenes, sports, style and “other” subjects. The categories were suggested by WJHS Library Media Specialist Lynn Mercier and Courtney’s parents.
According to Mercier, a driving force behind the exhibit, there were 58 students who entered the contest. Students were allowed more than one entry and, collectively, they submitted 115 entries. Mercier said that the photos were judged by a panel of 20 student and adult judges who selected winners for first, second and third place recognition. There was also a “Student Choice” contest in which four hundred students voted for their favorite images in the various categories.
“It’s very heartwarming to know she’s still remembered (and) that somebody wants to do something in her memory,” said Joleen DeWitt of the exhibit. “It makes you feel good.”
“It is nice, very nice,” added Corey DeWitt. “The kids are amazing with what they’ve done with the pictures. I didn’t know they could be this creative but they always amaze you.”
Mercier indicated that she got the idea to hold a contest and do an exhibit in Courtney’s honor while reading an article about the DeWitts in the York County Coast Star from March of 2009. In 2006 when the family was picking out a space for Courtney at Ocean View Cemetery, Michaela, indicated that she wanted to be able to see her sister’s place of rest from her school library’s windows, which look out, upon Ocean View Cemetery. Touched by this, Mercier was inspired to bring the contest and exhibit to life.
According to Mercier, The Courtney DeWitt Photography Competition and Library Exhibit is planned to be an annual event. While the photography exhibit in the WJHS Library is now closed because of summer recess, it will reappear at the end of summer at the Wells Public Library and may be displayed elsewhere in the fall. The photo exhibit was organized as a group effort by Joleen, Corey and Michaela DeWitt and members of the WJHS Student Council including Advisors Lynn Mercier and Cindy Mitchell.
Mercier said that any certificates and prizes for winners in the photo contest would be awarded in the fall after the display ends. She says that she plans to include the exhibit’s photos in a booklet and include it in the library’s collection.
Those that received top recognition in the Student Choice portion of the photo contest include Anna Libby (5th and 6th grade in the Nature category), Sophie Lamb (7/8 Nature), Hannah Moody (5/6 Animals), Olivia Welch (7/8 Animals), Dawson Sibley and Isabelle Smith (tied in the 5/6 “Other” category), Elizabeth Thompson (7/8 Other), Madalin Pagliarulo (5 through 8 Teen Scenes) and Tyler Bartlett (5 through 8 Sports).
The DeWitts now award a college scholarship in Courtney’s name to a deserving senior before graduation at Wells High School. Article by Reg Bennett.
Photo caption: In the Wells Junior High School Library on June 9th are (from left to right) WJHS Library Media Specialist Lynn Mercier, Michaela, Corey and Joleen DeWitt. (Reg Bennett photo)