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Washington Voices

West Valley student wins prestigious photo contest

Thu., June 6, 2013, midnight

The tree-lined path leading to Tonya Lewis’ home at the Hutton Settlement inspired her to snap a picture with her iPod.

The photo, “Pathway to Happiness,” won first place in the landscape category in the Photographic Society of America’s international photo contest.

“I named it ‘Pathways to Happiness’ because living at Hutton has made me happy,” she said. “I’m happy to have a nice home.”

The West Valley High School sophomore decided to take Dirk Linton’s photography class this year after a friend recommended it to her. She usually uses a digital camera, and Linton said the photo was the first photo from an iPod they had entered into the competition.

Lewis’ photo was one of six the school entered. West Valley received two Judges’ Choice awards and one Best in Show at the local level before moving on to the international competition, which included 64 countries.

She won $175 and will be profiled in the group’s magazine.

“We had a good year this year,” Linton said of his students.

It’s not the first time one of his students has won this award. In 2005, Chris Vennum won the prize. His photo and the profile that ran in the magazine hangs on Linton’s classroom wall.

For Lewis, the class is offering her new ideas. She said she really likes taking landscape and nature photographs.

“It calms me down to see nature through a different point of view,” she said. After high school, she’s thinking of either going to cosmetology school or studying photography at a four-year college.

She said she has lived at Hutton for almost seven years. She had lived there for a while during elementary school before moving in with her mother and later foster care. When she was given the option to return to Hutton, she took it. Children can live at the home until they are 18 years old or until they graduate from high school.

“Hutton has helped me in a lot of ways,” she said. It’s helped “develop who I am,” she said.

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