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Emily MacLean awarded Picture of the Year

BOSTON-- Mesa Middle School eighth-grader Emily MacLean cheered in the audience as her peer was awarded the NSPA Picture of the Year in 2012.  Just one year later, now as a Douglas County High School freshman, it was MacLean up on that stage accepting the same honor. 

"I said, 'hey, I want to do that, I want to take a picture and get this award,' and that was my biggest goal for the whole year," MacLean said.

MacLean was originally interested in the yearbook class in seventh grade, when she was in a neighboring classroom and heard all about teacher and adviser, Melissa Larson, from her peers.

"Everybody always said, 'Ms. Larson is so cool and she's teaching this class and doing the yearbook', and I thought I would really love to have her as a teacher," MacLean explained.  

It soon became much more than that, however, when she saw the yearbook at the end of her seventh-grade year and noticed all of the stunning pictures.

"I thought, 'holy cow this person takes awesome photos, I want to be that kind of person,'" she said.  

MacLean had always loved using her grandmother's camera to snap pictures on their family vacations, but when Larson asked her to attend games and other events to take photos for the yearbook, MacLean was hooked. 

"It was probably the most fun thing I did," she said. " I just loved it."

MacLean may have originally hoped to achieve the Picture of the Year award, but as the year went by and summer's activities filled her schedule, the award wasn't really a priority anymore.  However, when she found she was a top ten finalist in the country, along with three other Douglas County middle schoolers, she was thrilled to be able to attend the JEA conference for a second time. 

As finalists were counted down from fifth through second place, MacLean could hardly contain herself. 

"All I could do was sit there," she remembered, "My heart was racing and I was just speechless when they called my name (for first place)."

To be nationally recognized is an honor, but what MacLean values more is the knowledge she has gained through the whole experience. Not only did she enhance her craft through the advice of professionals from all over the country, but she also learned more about herself.

"With this photo thing, I put in all of my effort and hit hard on it, and it really paid off in the end," she said. 

Now a freshman at Douglas County High School, MacLean keeps busy with swim and cross-country and looks forward to her photography class next semester.


Three other Douglas County middle school students traveled to Boston with MacLean, after being selected as finalists in NSPA’s Picture of the Year contest. In the Middle School division there are ten finalists nationally, so it was astounding that four of them were from DCSD. 

Equally amazing is the fact that this is the sixth consecutive year Sierra has had at least one finalist and the fourth year that Sierra has had two finalists in the competition.

Picture of the Year finalists include:
Connor Chase
Sierra Middle School

Emily MacLean
Mesa Middle School

Alexandra Merrill
Sierra Middle School

Brina Sandoval
Rocky Heights Middle School

Mesa Middle School also placed second and Rocky Heights third in the Best of Show yearbook competition.

November 27, 2013 | By rmbarber | Category:

District News

graduates standing in line outside, smiling

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Graduation rates in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) continue to climb. Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows the on-time, four-year graduation rate is now 90.4 percent.

DCSD students also made an impressive showing at graduation. The class of 2017 earned more than $82 million in scholarships.

DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area. According to CDE, DCSD graduation rates have risen steadily from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 90.4 percent in 2017.

Five female students standing on stage smiling and laughing at the awards ceremony

The top two-percent of female athletes in Douglas County School District (DCSD) were honored at the annual Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon last week at Chaparral High School. This year represented the 30th national celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day, created to encourage and promote the participation of girls in athletics. The girls who were honored were selected by their school’s coaches, athletic directors and principals for their outstanding achievements.

Superintendent Search text based logo

Working through the recent winter break, the Douglas County School District Board of Education has kicked off its search for DCSD’s next permanent superintendent. Following a thorough vetting of potential search firms, Ray & Associates (no relation to Board Director David Ray) has been hired to conduct the national search. The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences.