Last June, Annie Rao ’10 was the first student at Phillips Academy to win the Public Service Scholarship.
The Public Service Scholarship is awarded to students who have the most organized and realistic plans to resolve current issues in the United States of America.
Rao won the scholarship and was granted $500 for her proposal centered on middle school art education.
Rao developed her program after noticing that many students in middle school do not have confidence or adequate education to create art, especially photography.
To solve this problem, Rao visited Esperanza Academy, an all-girls school in Lawrence, this summer to help students learn to take pictures and make compositions from their photos.
“As a photographer, I felt like my middle school did not support students well in art courses. Thus, this was the main motive for my plan,” said Rao.
Rao was involved with the summer session at Esperanza and helped students with different photography techniques like learning to use contrast and different light combinations.
A unique feature of Rao’s program was the combination of photography skills in English classes. In one such project, Rao asked students to take a picture of an object that Shakespeare’s Romeo would have given to Juliet as a gift. The students not only analyzed Romeo and Juliet, but they also got the opportunity to take pictures.
Rao said that she was pleased with the success of her program.
“I didn’t know my plan would be this successful. The students were enjoying their English classes and photography as well,” she said. “At the end of the summer session, the students were begging me not to go back to Andover and to stay at the school.”
“I really wanted to win this scholarship, and I was happy to have the opportunity to change the world,” she continued.
Rao confronted difficulty in budgeting the $500 award, as digital cameras are expensive.
“I really wanted to buy digital cameras for the program, so I emailed different electronic companies like Staples, Canon, Best Buy, Nikon, and Fuji to get special rates and discounts,” said Rao.
Rao received a discount from Staples, and was able to buy 11 digital cameras for $220.
Although Rao’s program was contained to a summer session, she is hoping to make a club at Phillips Academy to visit Esperanza Academy every two weeks.
To date, Rao is the only student involved in these plans, but by winter, Rao hopes to add more students to the program.
“Right now, I visit the school three times a week, but after I graduate from Andover, I don’t want this plan to end. I want the future Andover students to join and go to the school with me. Art is supposed to be shared by people, not kept in our own hearts,” she said.