Ambitious, creative and determined are three words that describe La’Jasha Champion. The junior at Carver High School brought home another win, while adding another notch to her portfolio of work.
In the fall, she learned that she had won the design cover of the 2016 iWrite Short Stories for Kids by Kids volume. The organization honored her and the young writers at the 7th Annual iWrite Literacy Luncheon and Book Signing. La’Jasha based her winning design on the fable The Elephant and the Mouse.
“The well–known children‘s story inspired me,” said La’Jasha. “It‘s a story about how you should not judge anyone by how they look or appear. In other words, don‘t judge a book by its cover.”
That is definitely something that could apply to La’Jasha. The petite artist is soft-spoken and even a bit shy. But that fades away once she starts to talk about her work. She is eager to share how she works and comes up with ideas. La’Jasha is drawing or creating all the time. She has samples of work to show.
While La’Jasha constantly works on her craft outside of school, she is also eager to learn. She has a willingness try new techniques or mediums to express herself creatively.
One of those new mediums was computer animation. This led to her to enter the 2016 Magnet Schools of America national student poster contest. The then sophomore took home first place in the high school division.
Ever-expanding her skills, La’Jasha took another leap. She decided to attempt something completely out of her element. She chose to dive into the worlds of technology and engineering.
As a student-member of the Business Professionals of America (BPA), she can compete. She decided to enter the state conference in computer modeling. This was completely new territory for her. That didn’t hold her back.
Students competing had to create a model statue commemorating the Boston Marathon.
La’Jasha researched the history of the Boston Marathon and the bombings of the event in 2013. She started with a traditional pencil and paper sketch. Then she taught herself how to use Tinkercad. This is a free modeling program she used to create her 3-dimensional statue design.
Her perseverance paid off. La’Jasha won first place at the State BPA Conference. It was the first time Carver High School had a student win in the category. Her winning piece shows two figures running. One appears younger than the other, with wings coming out from behind the older runner. La’Jasha’s design also has an interesting effect. The runners can appear to be running up or downhill, based on how you turn the statue to view.
The state win allowed her to advance to the national BPA contest. For the national event, she needed more than a computed-aided design. To present her pitch to judges, she would need a physical model of her statue. Very quickly, she and her BPA sponsor Mattie McKrell, ran into problems. Each of the school’s three 3D printers could not produce La’Jasha’s design. In each attempt, they “got a big ball of plastic filament.”
With only four days until the competition, McKrell enlisted the help of Josh Hicks. He is the instructional technologist (iTech) at the campus.
“It impressed me that La‘Jasha had taught herself Tinkercad,” said Hicks. “She learned how to storyboard the details. We (educators) had to do whatever we could to print her statue so she could compete.”
Hicks decided to contact business partners Advanced Graphics and Techno Chaos for help. Working together, they touched up the original scan of La’Jasha’s hand-drawn model. This ensured the lines were sharp and clear so the printer could detect where to cut or start a new line. Hicks sent the companies the design to print the 3D models. By this point, La’Jasha and McKrell were already on their way to the national contest in Boston.
According to Hicks, the companies went above and beyond to help La’Jasha. The printing took 10 hours. Advanced Graphics shipped the statue overnight to Boston. With only an hour-and-a-half to go before her presentation, La’Jasha had her statue. She took home fourth place at nationals.
“We couldn‘t have done this without our business partners,” said Hicks. “They helped ensure one of our students had a chance at nationals. We have so many students like La‘Jasha doing amazing things. We have to give them the opportunities they deserve. As educator, it‘s inspiring to see students like La‘Jasha show such determination. We couldn‘t let her down.”
“I couldn‘t believe how many people got involved to make this happen,” said La’Jasha. “All I can say is ‘thank you‘ to everyone.”
La’Jasha’s other past accolades include winning first place in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion’s Musical Scores Logo (or T-Shirt) Design Contest and medaling in the Texas Art Education Association’s Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE). She also earned a blue ribbon in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Student Art Contest.
There is no doubt that La’Jasha is a hard worker and talented. But she lauds teachers like Matthew Kirkpatrick and McKrell. Kirkpatrick teaches electronic media. He is also Carver HS’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
“There is this real–world approach at Carver,” said La’Jasha. “Mr. Kirkpatrick has us (students) approach assignments like we would if we worked for an agency or company. We come up with several versions to present to the client. The goal is to create projects that meet the client‘s needs. It forces you to think critically about the project. You might even problem solve or think outside the box to come up with solutions to meet needs.
“Ms. McKrell is like a second mom. She‘s stayed late after school on many evenings so I can continue to work on new skills or projects. There have been many late evenings working on projects or assignments. There are so many teachers here dedicated to working with students. That means a lot.
“I‘m grateful for the support of teachers and family members. It‘s daunting to put your work out there for the world. But they provide a really nurturing environment to take a chance to believe in oneself. That has made a world of difference in making me a more confident artist … a confident individual.”
She hasn’t stopped competing. McKrell shared that La’Jasha competed in the BPA Regional Contest at the end of January 2017. She once again is competing in the Computer Modeling event. This year’s scenario has contestants creating a model mascot for a new water park in Florida. According to McKrell, she and La’Jasha researched ideas. Afterwards, La’Jasha went into creative mode. “She designed the cutest, most unique mascot possible.”
The aspiring illustrator/graphic artist now heads to the State BPA contest. She advanced after winning second place at the regional event. La’Jasha is working hard to polish her design. She hopes to again advance to nationals. The state competition is set for March in Dallas.
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