2012 WINNER BIOS
Emily Kozacek of Overland Park (Blue Valley Southwest) has been writing songs for about five years and is very involved with her church music program, where her worship leader encourages her musical talent. "Music is a way for me to process and express my feelings," Emily says. She received her first guitar as a gift in 7th grade and taught herself to play. She learned about the Sobriety Rocks contest from her mom, a student counselor at Johnson County Community College. Emily thought it seemed like a perfect opportunity to use her talents to get proactive about her college expenses. She drew on her own experiences to write "Worth More." It's not easy, she says, when you see others make decisions that you question. Sometimes it can even drive a wedge between friends. Emily is heading to Belmont University in Nashville, which has a songwriting program. She wants to study to be a worship leader.
Fun facts: Emily is the captain of the girls' golf team and likes to paint and draw.
Gabriella Fordiani of Overland Park (Blue Valley High School) says she was inspired to write her short story "Perception and Memory" by a pre-prom assembly at her school about staying safe on prom night. "There was a video about someone older who had a date who was underage," she says. "I just tried to put myself in that situation." The story takes place mostly in flashback, as a teenager drives home from school. Different cues take her back to her prom night, when an 18-year-old drunk driver crashed into her car, killing her boyfriend. Gabriella says she learned about the Sobriety Rocks contest through a school e-mail about scholarship opportunities. Though her entry is a short story, she usually writes poetry and is the editor of her school's literary/art magazine "Headrush." Gabriella plans to study health and science at DePaul University in Chicago.
Fun facts: Writing isn't Gabriella's only creative talent. She has played the cello for six years and has taken dance for 13.
Sara E. Haug of Leawood (Blue Valley North) did many art projects over the years when she was homeschooled but didn't take a formal class until her freshman year in high school. The lack of formal training didn't hurt her — she's been accepted to nine art schools. She'll stay close to home, attending the Kansas City Art Institute on a full scholarship. Sara was pursuing scholarships and was encouraged to enter Sobriety Rocks by her art teacher and a good friend who is an SRO officer at her school. She says she feels strongly about the cause because she has seen too many classmates get into dangerous situations by binge drinking. In her mixed media work "Is This Your Last Shot?" Sara shows a girl falling into a shot glass because shots are common at high school parties. She wanted to convey both foreboding and hope. "She hasn't hit bottom yet because there is still hope." Sara is interested in illustration and art criticism and wants to pursue a master's degree.
Fun facts: There are 10 people in Sara's family — and eight pets! She's on the youth board for the Kansas City Sports Commission.
Jamie Cernich of Overland Park (Blue Valley Northwest) is passionate about the topic of underage drinking. "I have seen alcohol do stupid things to smart people," she says. Her commercial "You're Not the Exception" shows that it's wrong to think, "It won't happen to me." Jamie heard about the contest from her broadcast journalism teacher. She needed money for college. So she borrowed one of the video cameras from the school and edited her commercial in Final Cut Pro. She learned how to shoot and edit video in her high school classes. As a junior and senior, she was on staff for the school's monthly broadcast of news and feature stories. Her team and the newspaper staff were in charge of the school website. Jamie plans to attend Florida State University and study animation. She says she would love to work at Disney or Pixar someday.
Fun facts: Jamie has been singing in a choir since 5th grade and is involved in musical theater.