YES Prep Public Schools
Jonathan Brown

YES Prep Southeast student Maria Gomez at the Rodeo Art Showcase

For student artists across YES Prep, this year's Houston Rodeo School Art Competition brought immense pride and milestones to celebrate. We witnessed history being made. 

This year marks the first time in YES Prep history that a secondary student was selected to have their work featured in the showcase. Typically, YES Prep elementary students are chosen to hang their masterpiece artwork up at the Houston Rodeo Art Competition. 

Among the big winners were YES Prep East End Elementary's Danilo Conde, who won Best in Show for his pre-K artwork "La Granja" and YES Prep Southeast Elementary's David Zelaya, who took home a Gold Medal for his fourth-grade piece "Problems in the Desert." Additionally, Avery Rendon, a first grader at Southeast Elementary, earned Best in Show in the Special Education category for "My Rainbow Friend Horse." 

Southeast makes history

Maria Gomez's "Best in Show" painting, "She Who Makes Texas"

The achievements didn't stop there. Maria Gomez, an 11th grader at YES Prep Southeast Secondary, made history as the first YES Prep secondary student to be featured in the Rodeo showcase with her artwork “She Who Makes Texas,” ranking Best in Show.  

"I was internally really happy because it's not common for just anyone to be selected, especially from a picky competition such as the Rodeo," Gomez shared about her finalist selection. 

Her piece, a sunset scene over a field of Texas bluebonnets, was inspired by her supportive family who provided the art supplies and encouragement to push through the tight deadline. 

Gomez’s art teacher, Jennifer Crancer, was overflowed with pride for her student's accomplishments this year. 

"Maria [Gomez] is humble and kind. She is one of the most talented students I have ever taught...These experiences will affect how she approaches art in her future," Crancer said. "My hope is that she continues to enter work. She plans to take my AP Art and Design class again as a senior! It just keeps getting better for her." 

Benefits of art competitions

Winning an art competition is subjective, and the true importance is that the artist is happy with their own work.

Southeast Elementary student Avery Rendon (left) with art teacher, Colleen Duke (right)

For long-time art educator Colleen Duke, who has spearheaded YES Prep's Rodeo Art involvement since 2020, these milestones spotlight how visual arts competitions inspire students' creativity and persistence. 

"The Rodeo art competition is something students look forward to every year," Duke explained. "I have students who start planning out their composition for next year as soon as they finish their artwork in their current year." 

By tasking students with individual planning and executing their own artistic visions, the Rodeo Art event becomes a rich lesson in the creative process from concept to completion. It builds key skills like problem-solving and self-expression. 

"I believe participating in competitions is an important part of being an artist," Duke said. “It teaches students about persistence, but also an important lesson - winning an art competition is subjective, and the true importance is that the artist is happy with their own work.” 

As for advice to fellow budding artists, Gomez emphasized cultivating passion and determination: "Always have ambition for yourself. And if you can, practice one thing over and over again to become a pro at it, instead of being a master of none." 

With talents continuing to flourish, the future looks bright for YES Prep's student artists to reach new creative heights. As a community, we congratulate all who represented YES Prep with such skill and dedication in this year's Rodeo Art Competition! 

<Click here to view the event gallery>


Gomez has also been selected as a finalist to compete at the State Visual Arts Scholastic Event (VASE) in San Marcos, Texas on the last weekend of April. The VASE competition is an annual UIL event to recognize exemplary student achievement in the Visual Arts. Let’s wish Gomez good luck by resharing her story and spreading the word! 

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