YES Prep Public Schools
Communications & Marketing

YES Prep students and staff were ecstatic to know that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo would make its way back into the public sphere this year. Between the BBQ competitions, nightly concerts with A-list performers and internationally renowned livestock show, there is lots to be excited about. But for the YES Prep community, the Rodeo’s art competition is the shining tradition that sits atop that list of activities. 

The Rodeo’s School Art Program hosts an annual art contest that is divided into three categories: elementary, junior high and high school. Best of Show, Gold Medal and Special Merit awards are selected in each category. And for the second consecutive year, we’re proud to announce that YES Prep elementary students have been acknowledged and celebrated for their award-winning art pieces! 

Students from both YES Prep North Forest Elementary (NFE) and YES Prep Southeast Elementary (SEE) participated in this year’s contest, where Melanie Najera, second grader from NFE, won ‘Best of Show’   and Jesus Vargas, third grader from SEE, won the ‘Gold Medal’. Their artwork was displayed at the Rodeo on its 90th anniversary! 

North Forest Elementary’s Melanie Najera wins Best of Show 

Melanie (left) and her NFE art teacher, Mr. Gonzalez (right)

NFE art teacher Saberin Gonzalez could not be more excited to see Melanie’s artwork being recognized. Melanie’s artwork, titled The Rodeo Stage, won ‘Best of Show’ amongst all YES Prep elementary school students. “I believe what stood out in Melanie’s piece was what she included in her artwork. Melanie did something I had never seen a single student who has competed at the Rodeo before,” said Gonzalez. What was unique was Melanie included every single aspect of the Rodeo within her artwork. “She included bull riding, as well as a bull rider waiting in the wings to ride next, she included the livestock show with the different farm animals you can view, and she even included the expo of booths to purchase food and Rodeo goods! Most students might hone in on one aspect of the Rodeo or western culture, but Melanie took on the incredible feat of including every aspect of the Rodeo while using a bird’s eye view perspective.”

Melanie's "The Rodeo Stage" artwork received the 'Best of Show' Award.

The moment shined bright for Melanie and her showstopping piece was a hit with the Rodeo judges, which makes it hard to believe that there was hesitation at the beginning of the class project. Melanie considered not entering because she was nervous that she might not win. But great teachers can turn doubt into opportunity. Gonzalez encouraged Melanie to focus on the enjoyment of making her art, and that the rest would work itself out. “She is incredibly talented and without a doubt, deserves this recognition.” 

Gonzalez recalls being in downtown Houston running a few errands when he received the news. “I received a message with a photo of my student's artwork and a ‘Best of Show’ ribbon attached and I immediately screamed and burst into tears of joy. I feel such excitement and joy for Melanie and I hope to continue to launch all my students' journeys with art. I feel proud of myself as an art teacher for helping to mentor a student to be able to win 1st place at the Rodeo.” 

Southeast Elementary’s Jesus Vargas wins Gold Medal 

As for SEE teacher, Colleen Duke —who had her art students enter the Rodeo Art Show for two years now—her experience with the art show in previous years has helped her appreciate the different traits her students tend to develop when embracing the art process. 

Duke mentioned that Jesus was overly excited to get started on his art piece, noting specifically how hard he works on practicing his drawing skills year-round and consistently asking for feedback and updates throughout the judging process. 

Jesus' Gold Metal artwork, titled "The Rodeo Race".

Earning the spot of ’Gold Medal’ winner, The Rodeo Race, Jesus’ western-themed drawing, would make any Texan proud. His artwork shows a rodeo arena with a bull rider along with a cowboy riding a horse, a rodeo clown in a barrel and a cowboy with a lasso. “His art stands out in the way he portrays movement in each of his human and animal figures,” said Duke. “A Texas flag adorns the fence, with a large sun rising in the background. His piece has always reminded me of the drawings of bull riders by Francisco Goya, the Spanish painter.”

Jesus' SEE art teacher, Mrs. Duke

Duke expressed how she could not be prouder of Jesus and his submission, especially since he is one of her art students that particularly works hard at practicing to improve. Duke makes it a point to always remind her students that the most important trait to becoming a strong artist is to not worry about perfection, and just keep trying and creating. “Sometimes students get too caught up with erasing and worrying about tiny details to be able to complete a drawing. Something that has always stood out to me about Jesus is that he pushes himself to draw things that he hasn’t drawn before, that are difficult. He is brave in his art, shows no fear in drawing, and the award was very well deserved.”

These awards were very well deserved, indeed! 

Congratulations to both Melanie and Jesus for representing YES Prep Public Schools at the Houston Rodeo and we hope to continue empowering our students towards using their amazing talents and abilities. And a special shoutout to Mrs. Duke and Mr. Gonzalez, for serving our students as both outstanding art teachers as well as mentors for our students at our YES Prep elementary schools! 

Click here to view last year’s Rodeo Art Award winner story. If you’d like to learn more about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s School Art Contest, click here