Area high school students represented North Pinellas well during an arts competition last week at the Mahaffey Theater.
Organized by the Pinellas Education Foundation, the 11th Annual Walker’s Rising Stars Scholarship Competition allows students from all over the county to perform various artistic talents while vying for $58,000 worth of future college assistance funding.
The foundation estimated that about 1,000 people turned out to attend last Tuesday’s event.
More than 200 juniors and seniors competed over a seven-month process that began with auditions and local talent shows at their own schools.
The six categories were culinary arts, dance, instrumental arts, theater, visual arts and vocal arts.
Of the six overall first-place winners, three hailed from North Pinellas schools. Tarpon Springs senior Kaila Delany won the instrumental competitions, East Lake senior Kiana Hamm won for visual art and East Lake senior Marjorie Gifford won in vocal music.
Culinary arts, new to the competition this year, awarded scholarships to its top three winners, as opposed to the top four in the other five categories.
Tarpon Springs seniors Giulia de Lima and LaVante Pope won second and third place, respectively, in culinary arts. Fellow Sponger senior Alexis Ledbetter placed third in the visual art.
Three Palm Harbor University seniors earned top-four honors and were named “Fan Favorite” by the crowd in their respective categories. Morgan Myers won fourth in dance, Justin Ma won second place in instrumental and Tim Hart won fourth in theater. PHU senior Danielle Denninger also earned third in the vocal category.
Senior Nathalie Hernandez earned Dunedin a second-place award in vocal. The vocal winner, East Lake’s Gifford, also was named “Fan Favorite.”
Tarpon Springs High’s award-winning Jazz Ensemble entertained attendees throughout the evening emceed by Steve and Julie Weintraub from the Gold and Diamond Source in Clearwater.
The competition began in 2003 when neurosurgeon and Pinellas Education Foundation board member Jeffrey Walker provided its initial funding. Corporate and community sponsors join Walker to fund and expand the competition each year.
To see a full album of photos from last Tuesday’s event, find the Pinellas Education Foundation on Facebook.