WARREN, NJ – Forty-six students at Watchung Hills Regional High School were inducted into the National Arts Honor Society at a ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 12, in the front entrance atrium of the school.
Photography teacher Vincent Colabella welcomed the students, their parents and school officials to the induction ceremony. He thanked Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett, Principal George Alexis, and Arts Department Supervisor Brad Commerford for attending. He also introduced the keynote speaker, 2009 Watchung Hills graduate and photography enthusiast Jenna Deutsch. She is now an advertising and public relations professional in Boston, Mass.
Fine Arts Teacher Joan Thomson joined Colabella and Alexis in congratulating each of the 46 students who came forward to receive their certificate, recognition and congratulations.
The 46 students are: Alison Allocco, Hannah Ambinder, Samantha Askin, Rosemarie Baratta, Sylvia Baeyens, Shayna Bezozo, Emily Bintley, Jenna Charko, Kimberlie Chao, Susan Chen, Sara Choudhury, Brian DiDonna, Hannah Feldman, Olivia Fogel, Sydney Foster, Carlie Goode, Olena Hadlet, Surabhi Hoover, Ashly Kang, Julia Kang, Charlotte Kwon, Jessie Liao, Joy Li, Lucy Liu, Jacklyn Mentone, Hannah McCracken, Kate McGann, Kelly Mosquera, Tess Novek, Rebecca Novik, Christellane Osena, Raquel Pedroso, Justin Scalera, Corinne Semper, Ryan Shen, Sarah Smith, Samantha Snyder, Hanah Song, Brooke Stanicki, Lauren Stone, Katie Tiarks, Erin Topel, Carl Valentino, Samantha Wilson, Alvin Wong, and William Zhang.

The National Arts Honor Society, designed specifically for high school students, was founded in 1978. The society has more than 2,000 chapters and 48,000 members worldwide. To be eligible for induction, students must be juniors or seniors who are enrolled in their second full year of art and have earned a high grade point average in their art courses and are in good academic standing in other courses. Students in the areas of photography, work with oil paints, watercolors, colored pencils, 3-D imaging and jewelry are all eligible for induction.
Deutsch said she found her passion for photography while taking Photography I, taught by Thomson. She had signed up for Photo I thinking it was another class to fulfill her graduation requirements. She had been a soccer enthusiast, who had played on the Freshman team at Watchung Hills as well as on a team out of Hillsborough Township. However, she tore a ligament in her knee and it took months to rehab. During her recovery, photography suddenly started to fill the void as an interest.
“Photo I was so great that I spent a summer at a camp learning how to develop my own film,” she said. She also signed up to take Photo II the next fall.
“Although I continued to play soccer, my focus not only shifted to photography, but to art as a whole,” she said. “I continued to take all the photo classes Watchung Hills offered, even taking an independent study class with Mr. Colabella. I started looking at all my work – even work in classes like Modern American History – like pieces of art. Those five page essays I dreaded? I made sure they had a good flow, and not only read well, but created an image in my reader’s mind.” When it came time to create a community project for her Girl Scout Gold Award, the Girl Scout equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Scout, she created a traveling art show, titled “Heart of a Warrior,” to honor one of her classmates, the late Sandy Blumberg.
“Sandy, who loved art more-so than I did, wanted to be an art teacher for special needs children upon growing up, but passed away from Neurofibromatosis,” said Deutsch. “Collecting all types of art from different students and then taking it from place to place, such as the Ronald McDonald House, the VA Hospital, and finally displaying it in Watchung Hills’ Special Services suite made me fall even more in love with art, but also gave me a glimpse into public relations and event planning.”
When Deutsch researched colleges, she discovered that Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Rochester, N.Y., had a strong communications and co-op program, and a strong art presence. “RIT is home to one of the best photo and design programs in the country, which I knew I wanted to keep around in my life,” she said.
At RIT, she continued her approach, first developed through classes and with the help her art teachers at Watchung Hills, of seeing everything as an opportunity to apply principals of art in communications situations. She said one of the highlights of her college career was teaming up with a photographer, a graphic designer and the school’s hockey team to create a highly successful advertising campaign for the annual “Big Shot” event.  Started in 1987, RIT Big Shot is a nighttime community photography project produced by the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences at RIT. After graduation, she began working as a project manager at SapientNitro, an interactive agency based out of Boston.
“Although I am not a “creative” and therefore not one of the ones designing, or writing copy for, ads, mobile apps or web sites, I am still involved in the creative process,” Deutsch said. “Those principles of photography that I felt like Mr. Colabella made me learn year after year come to mind every day when my team and I are brainstorming for a new campaign. I promise you, you will end up using the principal of thirds for the rest of your life, so trust me when I say paying attention in class is important. Often, my clients aren’t the coolest or the sexiest, but using what I know about art, I’ve found ways to make Ram trucks or Citizens Band seem exciting.” Deutsch said Colabella has remained “an invaluable resource for me throughout college and the beginning of my professional career, and I know he will mentor me throughout life.”
She said that in addition to art, Watchung Hills helped open her eyes to “different things, experiences and viewpoints.” Deutsch concluded by quoting from the legendary author Jack Kerouac, author of the award-winning American classic, “On The Road,” first published in 1957. She said she became introduced to Kerouac during a joint project mentored by Colabella and English teacher Michael Porter.
“Here’s to the crazy ones,” Deutsch quotes Kerouac. “The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do…”