A Hampton Bays student's love of sea life has won her family a trip for four to the Cayman Islands.
Sofia Solano Cruz, a second-grader at Hampton Bays Elementary School, recently won first place nationwide in a "Save the Sharks" poster contest sponsored by Beneath the Sea, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness of oceans and the sport of scuba diving.
Her illustration, which she created using colored pencils, features a girl shopping at a grocery store near posted signs that read: "Do not buy shark products."
"I love sea creatures, I love the planet, I love the ocean, and I love nature and everything about it," said Sofia, 7. Regarding the importance of shark conservation, she said: "People should really be more careful. Some species are near-extinct."
A major problem for sharks, Sofia said, is the increase in "shark finning," a practice, banned in some countries, that involves removal of a shark's fins for soup and traditional remedies. The shark is discarded, but without its fin it cannot swim normally and suffocates or falls to predators.
Sofia and several classmates entered the contest as part of a school assignment by art teacher Debra McDowell. In her spare time, Sofia enjoys drawing and basketball.