Winners are from Franklin Heights, Columbus Alternative and Hilliard Davidson high schools

When Jordan Havice picked up her aunt’s professional camera for the first time at age 9, she had no idea what her future with photography would hold. She never would’ve imagined that someday one of her own photographs could win a national contest or, say, hang on the walls of the U.S. Capitol building. But just eight years later, the achievement that still seemed like a wild dream to her has become a reality.

On May 25, Havice won two awards in the 2017 Congressional Art Competition, which showcases the work and talents of high school students from each congressional district across the nation. Havice represents Rep. Joyce Beatty’s 3rd Ohio district. The winners get to have their artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol building for one year.

At 17, Havice just finished her junior year at Franklin Heights High School. Although she began taking photos years ago, she wasn’t able to start taking art and photography classes until recently, when a free period in her busy schedule opened up. But photography isn’t her only art-related passion. She also paints (when she gets the chance) and plays both the clarinet and the bass clarinet in her school’s band.

In her high school photography class, Havice and her classmates are given new assignments every week, each with a new theme or topic. Fittingly, the theme of the assignment following the November election was patriotism. When it came down to the photo shoot, all she needed—besides her camera—was a model and an American flag. “I actually just snapped the photos right before the assignment was due,” she admits. But the message and meaning behind the photographs are much more complex than that.

While Havice was taking the pictures, her friend gracefully draped an American flag around her head and shoulders like a hijab. The idea was inspired by Havice’s relationship with her friends from the Muslim community, including the girl in the photograph. “I want members of the Muslim community to look at my photograph and know that I will always be supportive of their religion and lifestyle,” Havice says. The photograph she handed in to her teacher is titled “Freedom of Religion” and was later submitted to the 2017 Congressional Art Competition.

Some of the competition’s winning artwork was announced to a packed crowd at the Columbus Museum of Art on May 25. But the museum wasn’t filled with just artists and art-lovers. U.S. Reps Joyce Beatty, Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi co-hosted the joint reception and personally awarded the winners from their respective congressional districts (Ohio’s 3rd, 12th and 15th Congressional Districts).

Ezri White, from Columbus Alternative High School, won first place in Rep. Tiberi’s district for a work titled “Times Past.” Cassidy Boyuk, from Hilliard Davidson High School, was the winner representing Rep. Stiver’s district.

When Havice arrived at the museum that evening, she thought she would just be receiving the People Choice award, an award based on Facebook “likes”, which she worked hard to earn, she says.

But Rep. Beatty called Havice’s name a second time—this time as the top winner for Ohio’s 3rd District. The young photographer was awestruck and “surprisingly amazed” at the news. Then, an enormous grin spread across her face as she accepted the award, and she admits she even teared up a bit.

As soon as she got home later that evening, Havice hung up her new shiny medals. She also immediately spent almost all of her prize money—a $500 gift card to Michaels. Some of the goodies she picked up include, of course, photography and painting supplies to assist her in her next projects. “I also got a ton of stuff to make cute little crafts that I found on Pinterest,” says Havice.

Havice’s photograph (along with the other winning artwork from across the nation) will be hanging up in the U.S. Capitol starting June 28.

The Congressional Art Competition has been held every year since 1982, in a collaborative effort between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Congressional Institute.