In Rapides Parish, Bolton High artists paint with passion and purpose

Monika Daniels and Megan Elliottsmith have always enjoyed painting as a means of personal expression.

It's always been fun to use different techniques and colors to convey thoughts and ideas and then have your friends comment on it, say the students at Bolton High School in Alexandria.

But when they were tasked with creating art for the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency and the Legacy Donor Foundation, they realized their impact could go far beyond their friends and family.

It was a growing experience.

"When making a poster, you are trying to make it work for the organization but at the same time you want to make it work for yourself and I think this really did both," said Monika, a 15-year-old sophomore.

Monika's poster illustrates human organs inside precious gems. "I wanted to show all the little gems that are inside people," Monika said.

Monika won first place in the Donate Life Louisiana 2009-10 contest and Megan, 18, a senior, won second place.

"I was really excited and really surprised because I really didn't think I would win at all," said Megan, who painted human nerves to represent a less popular organ. "I really like the way it looks, and since you can donate nerves, why not put it there?"

The Bolton High School students' art were among 69 contestants from across the state who were challenged to create art inspired on the importance of organ donation.

"I personally feel strong about organ donation so I decided to have my students participate," said Tracie Campbell, art teacher at Bolton.

Organizers of the contests said there are more than 105,000 people in the country waiting for life-saving organs transplants and 1,800 in Louisiana. Officials said the school competition helps share information on the significance of organ and tissue donation, therefore empowering the community help those in need.

Campbell said it is the first time the school has participated. "I was thrilled. We never won anything like this before," said Campbell, who originally had about 100 students participate. Campbell chose the two winning entries.

Daniels received an iPod shuffle, a trophy and a LOPA goodies bag, while

Elliotsmith got an iPod nano and a trophy. Campbell received a $250 gift card.

Campbell plans to make her students' participation an annual event. "The kids enjoyed it and the fact that the first time we entered it and we won first and second is a way to inspire them to do the contest next year," Campbell said.