“Through photography, I can just look through a lens and capture the moment right there and save that moment for life.”

For some students, art is more than a fun class or a casual pastime. It’s a way to build relationships, connect with learning and even find a purpose.

Jordan Mundy won an award for his photography in the 2019 Southwest Washington High School Art Show, but the honor he received is only a small part of his incredible story.

“Through photography, I can just look through a lens and capture the moment right there and save that moment for life,” the Hudson’s Bay High School sophomore told Fox 12 News, in an interview about the art show.

Jordan was an avid athlete until 2014, when he suffered a concussion in a bicycle accident. A couple of years later, he fell at home and sustained another concussion, which removed him from athletics entirely.

Suffering from post-concussion syndrome, sports were out, a devastating blow to the young competitor. But in his freshman year, he discovered photography. Soon he was taking photography classes and getting inspiration from a beloved teacher. Then something just clicked.

“Photography class and Mrs. (Bethany) Mccamish have saved my son,” said Jordan’s mom, Viktoria Vielle. “If this class didn’t exist, I don’t know where we would be today. I’m so thankful for the art programs that our public schools provide.”

Although he isn’t playing sports, Jordan is participating in his own way—taking photos of famous motocross athletes and at high school sporting events.

“It’s given him a new place in life,” Vielle said. “Because he was an athlete before this, and now he can be with athletes again, just doing something different. Photography saved him, it really has.”

Jordan Mundy shared how arts education has helped him at the 2019 Southwest Washington Regional High School Art Show

Recently several area art teachers shared other inspiring stories of students who have found comfort and a career in art.

One teacher described a student with communication challenges, who as part of his writing goals was tasked with drawing and labeling pictures. His drawing abilities quickly became apparent, and he was placed in a high school art class. This spring, one of his pencil drawings was exhibited in the regional contest.

Another teacher described a straight-A student who has always pushed herself to excel, taking honors classes, Running Start and other college classes.

“She is an amazing artist,” wrote her teacher, T.J Frey. “But even more than that, art has helped her discover a part of herself she didn’t know existed.”

Asked how art has inspired her, she said, “art allowed me to accept myself as someone who isn’t just a ‘STEM’ achiever.”

“Art allowed her to sit down and enjoy time and the process of creating,” said her teacher. “She has learned to accept herself in a whole different way.”

Still others find art leads to not only expression, but also a career. Daniel Kolomiyets, a 2015 graduate of Summit View High School, found his passion in fashion photography. As a student, he won countless awards at the Southwest Washington Art Show- one year taking home seven awards!

Daniel Kolomiyets poses with one of his award-winning photos at the 2014 Southwest Washington Regional High School Art Show

“Being bullied in high school, I discovered that art could help me best express myself,” Kolomiyets said. “It made me recognize the potential I had. I did not have a lot of support from my family and friends, so my confidence stemmed from excelling in the shows.”

He worked hard to earn money as a wedding photographer during high school, with the goal of enrolling at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where he is now pursuing a photography degree while continuing to work.

“The opportunities here are endless,” Kolomiyets said. “I have worked several shows for brands like Oscar de la Renta, Tory Burch, Coach, Vivenne Hu, just to name a few, during New York Fashion Week.”

His teacher, art specialist Jeri Stith, says she and her former student stay in touch because she “was his mentor, encourager and second mom.”

“If it wasn’t for the opportunities presented to me in high school, I would not have discovered my talent and passion for photography, nor would I be pursuing my dream of making it as a fashion photographer,” said Kolomiyets. “Having programs available to young students is crucial to helping creators and innovators discover their own talents and passions.”

Daniel Kolomiyets’ “Snowball Girl” received a Regional Award at the 2014 Southwest Washington Regional High School Art Show.