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AND THE WINNERS ARE...

The war in Iraq and such local issues as sinking homes in Amherst and school overcrowding inspired high school and middle school cartoonists in the ninth annual Buffalo News Editorial Cartoon Contest.

The News got about 1,400 contest entries, "about 75 percent dealing with the war on Iraq," said Cindy Sterner, News educational services manager. "Not everyone can draw -- but all entries had a point to make. That's really cool -- it's refreshing to see so many different opinions from kids." She noted that while many entries come from schools, "there are still a fair number of entries that are done at home."

The winners were chosen by Editorial Page Editor Gerald Goldberg and Deputy Editorial Page Editor Mike Vogel. "Artistic ability was not a consideration, under the contest rules, but we looked for the ability to convey sharp insight with a minimal amount of penstrokes," said Vogel.

First prize was a $300 U.S. savings bond; second, a $200 bond, and third, a $100 bond. Honorable mention winners received $15 gift certificates good at area retailers. The winners plus 10 students receiving honorable mention were honored Thursday at a reception at The News. Today we are publishing the first-, second- and third-place entries in both divisions. On the cover is an honorable mention cartoon by Gina Bonitatibus, highlighting the crowding at Orchard Park High School, where voters rejected plans for a new school.

SENIOR HIGH DIVISON

First: Danette Flint
School: Alexander Central School, sophomore.
Interests: Softball, swimming, cross-country, science fiction.
Danette entered the contest after "one of my younger sister's teachers sponsored it for her, and my mom brought it up that I should probably enter, too." She takes an art class every year. What inspired her cartoon, about military spending putting the squeeze on education? "As a student athlete, I've come to notice there's a lot of funding being cut, teacher cuts and pay cuts and extracurricular cuts, and it just seems weird that we can afford to spend $20 billion on a war when we can't afford to keep a teacher on our school staff."

Second: Laura Jantzi
School: Tonawanda, junior
Interests: Swim team, theater, Honor Society.
Laura said her cartoon about sinking Amherst homes, with its environmental spin of deer reclaiming the marsh, was inspired by an aunt and uncle who used to live in Amherst. "I thought it was funny they moved right before all the houses started to sink. I read more articles about it and I discovered they knew the houses would sink, but they built the houses anyway. I thought it was humorous the houses were built in the first place. That helped make the cartoon funny." She plans to major or minor in art in college and entered the cartoon for her ad and design class at school. She says she gets "a lot of news online ... because it's easier to access and you can get past stories."

Third: Brent Cox
School: Alexander Central, senior
Interests: Varsity baseball, basketball, Student Council president.
Brent did his political cartoon as an assignment for an art portfolio class at school. "I wasn't expecting to win," he said. He's planning to attend Genesee Community College, then transfer to another college. His cartoon grew out of a conversation with his brother about the war with Iraq before the war started. "My younger brother mentioned this article in the newspaper how generals weren't going to bring back the draft because they thought Americans were generally lazy and unfit to be soldiers. I thought that would make a pretty good cartoon." He plays left field and leadoff batter for the varsity baseball team and is vice president of National Honor Society and active in Varsity Club.

MIDDLE SCHOOL:

First: Ashlee Abraham
School: Lackawanna, sixth grade.
Interests: Soccer, gymnastics, drawing.
Ashlee drew her cartoon as an assignment for social studies class. She said she likes "to draw flowers and fish and stuff like that. I'm really good at flowers." How did she come up with her cartoon, of the shark of war threatening the little fish representing the economy? "I was talking with my mom and my dad, I heard them talking about the war. I usually doodle for fish. Like every time there's a war, the economy goes down, and fish are mean and war is mean."

Second: Tom Delmonte
School: Olmsted 56, 6th grade.
Interests: Science, math, art, juggling.

Tom did the cartoon about school overcrowding on his own. He was inspired by talk of state budget cuts and plans to "stuff fifth graders into our school." He likes to draw cartoons. "I just go off a limb and do anything." Tom learned to juggle in fourth grade when a performer came to his school. Tom says he can juggle three pins or three balls and also juggles rubber chickens and plungers.

Third: Andrew Wise
School: Queen of Heaven, 8th grade
Interests: Baseball, yearbook, Quiz Bowl.

Andrew did his cartoon for a school newspaper. What inspired his mocking look at the terror alert warnings? "The alert level to me kind of seems stupid. They would raise and lower the threat level without any specific information. Then one day I was watching 'Wheel of Fortune' and it kind of hit me." He adds, "I like to doodle but I'm not really an artist." He enjoys "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and watches TV news. "I'm interested in politics," he says. He also likes movies and video games including NASCAR Thunder 2003 for PlayStation 2.

These students won honorable mention:

HIGH SCHOOL DIVISION

Brian Muscorella, Tonawanda High.

Anairy Garcia, Lafayette.

Jonathan Jensen, Orchard Park.

Peter Beuler, Oakfield-Alabama.

MIDDLE SCHOOL DIVISION

Eric Mikida, Hamburg Middle.

Danielle Snow, Jefferson Middle School, Jamestown.

Paul Bilz, Fourteen Holy Helpers

Dave Marrano, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Anthony Marrano, Lancaster Middle.

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