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Elk County Catholic High School freshman Tony Hanes captured first place for his editorial cartoon as part of a national competition.
"It shows how America is in debt and how we always rely on China to get us out," Hanes explained his cartoon.
The winning cartoon depicts U.S. President Barack Obama stranded in a hole referred to as "Debt Valley" while being rescued by a helicopter with "China" inscribed on it.
Hane's cartoon was chosen from among 14,000 entries from across the country as part of the 2012 NewsCurrents Student Editorial Cartoon Contest. He captured the top prize in the grade 7-9 division.
His winnings include a $75 check, savings bond and a certificate.
"I got the idea from watching the news one day and just came up with it," Hanes said.
The publication explained Hanes' cartoon, stating the U.S. spends more money than it receives in taxes. In order to make up for this difference, the government relies on borrowing money, much of it from China. Because of this, China owns a portion of the U.S. debt.
According to Hanes, he was "shocked" when he was informed of his win, stating that he has never won a contest of this type before.
The 65 freshman students in Brian Donahue's American Cultures class submitted their cartoons as part of the class's annual third-quarter project in March. Their cartoons also received a grade from Donahue, who said Tony earned an 'A'.
In addition, Donahue receives nine issues of "Global News and Maps" for classroom use.
In a letter from NewsCurrents Publisher Judith Laitman, she stated, "You and your students are shining examples of the very best of what is happening in education today. You have clearly demonstrated how an outstanding educator can motivate students to think critically and achieve highly. Their work shows that young people are not only interested and engaged in the important and complex events in the world, but that they are capable of expressing opinions about those events in a highly sophisticated format."
Fellow freshman Hannah Onink's drawing was featured in NewsCurrents' "Cartoon of the Week" showcased on its website. Onink's subject was fracking and the debate surrounding the environmental effects of the gas-drilling process. The cartoon depicts a gas driller and a fracking protester discussing an earthquake which is destroying a city.
ECC alum Lizzie Dingcong tied for third place several years ago in the contest for her drawing of a gameboard with President Bush on it taking steps backward instead of forward. Also capturing third place within the past few years was Helen Danz.
The contest, open to all elementary, middle and high school students, is sponsored by NewsCurrents, a weekly current events discussion program which utilizes an interactive, multi-sensory discussion format that concentrates students attention and encourages them to think and talk about important issues.
It is judged by a panel of top editorial cartoonist who review the idea, artwork and overall combination of the two.
According to Donahue, NewsCurrents collects cartoons year-round, with some students submitting multiple entries. He added some of his students submitted two cartoons because they were interested in depicting multiple ideas. The subject must be of national or international news, nothing local or regional.
Donahue begins the NewsCurrents program at the start of the school year and concludes it in May.