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Way to go: Raquel Gonzalez

Raquel Veliz Gonzalez no longer looks at art only as a hobby: She hopes to make teaching others her life's work.

Gonzalez, a 2012 graduate of Roosevelt High School, recently took first place at "Social Realism 2012," an art exhibition at Hofstra University held in conjunction with the Oct. 16 presidential debate.

The exhibit invited local middle and high school students to submit a work of art illustrating what they consider to be the most challenging issue facing the United States.

Gonzalez's winning piece, titled "Soldier Children," depicts a young girl in a yellow dress looking down, as a camouflaged serviceman stands behind her with a hand on her shoulder. She said she created the piece using colored pencils and submitted it last spring during her senior year.

"My idea was to show how children can be affected by war," said Gonzalez, 19, who was awarded a certificate of recognition and a $150 gift card to Dick Blick Art Materials. Of winning, she said: "It means a lot. In the beginning I saw art as a hobby, but now I know I really want to be an art teacher."

The second-place winner was Ericka Garcia of East Hampton High School. Cynthia Lau of Hicksville High School was awarded third place.

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