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Street Smarts honors traffic-safety storybook's young artists

Hidden Hills, Golden View, Live Oak among schools represented

Hundreds of San Ramon Valley community members recently gathered to recognize 11 elementary school artists whose works won Street Smarts' 13th annual storybook poster contest and are featured in this year's traffic-safety storybook, "The Super Summer Scavenger Hunt with Safety Sam."

Written by San Ramon artist Dana Mentink, the book focuses on traveling safely around the San Ramon Valley with the Street Smarts mascot, Safety Sam. The children's picture book features illustrations by the contest winners, local first- through fifth-graders.

The book begins with the cover page illustration created by Keertana Sreekumar, a fifth-grade student at San Ramon's Neil Armstrong Elementary School.

The other winning artists were:

* Ashley Kim, fifth grade, Golden View

* Olivia Brandeis, fourth grade, Golden View

* Khushi Mehrotra, fourth grade, Hidden Hills

* Noor Gowra, second grade, Live Oak

* Nikitha Bangalore, fifth grade, Hidden Hills

* Jasmine Wong, fifth grade, Live Oak

* Niharika Bangalore, fifth grade, Hidden Hills

* Hridayesh Arora, first grade, Montevideo

* Katie Scielzo, first grade, John Baldwin

* Anushka Bora, fifth grade, Hidden Hills.

The winners were selected from among the 240-plus entries submitted by students in Danville, San Ramon, Blackhawk and Alamo during the contest window last fall.

Judges then reviewed all submissions based on criteria such as originality, visual design, composition, storytelling ability and clear communication of the selected storybook page and its safety message, according to contest organizers.

Nearly 400 students, parents, educators and community members turned out to the Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center on Jan. 25 to honor the winners and see the finished storybook.

In the story, Safety Sam meets new student Justin and takes him on an adventure around the San Ramon Valley. They visit historical places in the Valley and gather items and memories along the way. In the end, Justin realizes he has found a new place to call home with his new friends, including Safety Sam, according to organizers.

The awards ceremony opened with introductions by Safety Sam and event emcee Elizabeth Graswich, director of communications and community relations for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

The winning artists were announced by San Ramon Councilman Scott Perkins, Danville Mayor Renee Morgan, Contra Costa County Supervisor Candace Andersen, school board president Mark Jewett, fire district board member Jay Kerr and Alex Mehran Jr., president and COO of Sunset Development Co.

After the recognitions, San Ramon Councilman Dave Hudson and school board member Ken Mintz read the winning door-prize numbers. Students received prizes such as tickets to the Oakland Zoo and colored pencil art kits.

Following the ceremony, the author and 11 young storybook artists signed copies of the book for attendees.

This year, 5,000 copies of the book were given to San Ramon Valley school children as a way to educate children about school bus, vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle safety concepts, organizers said. Complimentary copies are available at the Danville Community Center and Library and San Ramon Community Center and Libraries.

The storybook program was made possible by the sponsorship of Sunset Development Co. and a federal Safe Routes to School grant.

Street Smarts, which provides traffic safety educational programs at local schools, is a partnership among the San Ramon Valley school and fire districts, Danville, San Ramon, the county and the San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs.

The awards ceremony is set to run this Saturday (11 a.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m) on CCTV in Contra Costa County on Comcast channel 27, Astound channel 32 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. The event video is also available on the Street Smarts YouTube channel.

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