Benton Middle School seventh-grader Eryn Cyia Tandoc wanted to create an art piece that captured the expression of a person who is trying to find where she belongs among others who are discovering their talents. Eryn picked up her colored pencils and drew puzzle pieces depicting a half colored, half gray face with disheveled hair, with some pieces missing from the puzzle.

Her art piece, “Mending Emotions,” caught the attention of Los Angeles County Fair (LACF) America’s Kids Fine Arts Teen 1 Cartooning category judges, who awarded Eryn the Sweepstakes award, the highest honor possible. Eryn also won a first-place ribbon for another studio art piece.

“My main motivation is to make my parents proud of me,” Eryn said. “I hope my art helps people who see it reflected in their own lives.”

Twenty-six Benton students earned multiple ribbons and awards in the fair’s photography and studio arts competitions, with 12 winning first place, 13 second place, two third place and two claiming Sweepstakes awards.

The following students earned ribbons and awards in their categories:


  • Sweepstakes: Cristian Bautista
  • First Place: Isabel Bautista, Peter Bogdan, Izabelle Garcia and Nickolas Travers
  • Second Place: Selena Arroyo, Makayla Sanchez, Elijah Cuevas, Layla Monteon, Janyce Fuller, Noah Villanueva, Jenaro Torres,
    Maximillian Espino, Lauren Bosbottom, Kaylie Castro, Jaden Capitulo, Albert Vega, Natalie Constantine and Izabelle Garcia
  • Third Place: Penelope Alcala and Marie Uscanga

Studio Art:

  • Sweepstakes: Eryn Cyia Tandoc
  • First Place: Eryn Cyia Tandoc, Ava Cervantes, Sofia De Luna, Nathan Jarrin, Annika Florkowshi and Amber Luna Baruch
  • Second Place: Amber Luna Baruch

The award-winning works were submitted to the competition by Benton photography teacher Victoria Pflanzer and studio art teacher Jennifer Hodge, who also teaches 3-D art and cartooning.

“It doesn’t matter if you are beginning, intermediate or advanced, you have an equal chance of shining at every level,” Pflanzer said. “Showcasing at competitions gives students more things to be excited about, and they take that enthusiasm with them to their classes.”

Benton’s Visual Arts program includes photography, studio art and media art. Students can choose up to three elective courses for the school year. Courses are administered three days a week and run for 84 minutes, allowing students ample time to focus on their artistic vision.

Once art projects are completed, students are encouraged to submit them to various contests like the City of Norwalk’s “Artastic” Competition.

“Congratulations to all of our students who were recognized for their artwork and photography at the Los Angeles County Fair this year,” NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian said. “Benton Principal Michael Gotto and his staff and teachers are so dedicated to maintaining a culture of high expectations for their students.”


111616_NLMUSD_LACFWINNERS: Twenty-six Benton Middle School students won awards and ribbons for their entries in the studio art and photography categories for the Los Angeles County Fair (LACF) America’s Kids Fine Arts competition. Pictured: Back row, left to right, Peter Bogden, Natalie Constantine, Isabel Bautista, Nickolas Travers and Isabelle Garcia. Front row, left to right, Nathan Jarrin, Sofia De Luna and Eryn Cyia Tadoc.