Johanna Campos has overcome so much in her life. An optimistic young woman, the Huntington High School senior is a Long Island Scholar Artist Merit Award recipient, one of less than two dozen honorees across all of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“Throughout the years, creating art has been a special part of me as it’s been my coping mechanism in times of despair,” Ms. Campos said. The teenager has emerged as a gifted photographer.
Huntington High School senior Johanna Campos.
“Looking back to early October in 2012, Hurricane Sandy impacted all of our lives,” Ms. Campos recalled. “I was 10 years old at the time and I was desperate. My new life in this country was just beginning and I hadn’t experienced something traumatic before. I remember not having television and only having a phone with LTE data. During those two weeks, all I would do was watch DIY videos on YouTube. It went from making candles out of oranges, to turning t-shirts into handbags. I was pretty good at it, too. I spent my time being patient, following step-by-step videos and creating beautiful artwork. It was at that moment in time that I realized I would never stop making art.”
As a Huntington High School freshman, Ms. Campos enrolled in fashion and creative crafts art courses. “That same year, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. A new stage in my life had just begun. All of it was pretty hard on me, being 3,432.6 miles away from my mother, keeping up with my honors classes and helping out my aunt, (who’s my legal guardian) around the house,” the senior said. “My school day began with Fashion Design & Illustration and I had Creative Crafts in the middle of the day. For those 80 minutes, I was able to use art as an emotional outlet to escape my hard reality. It allowed me to focus on what I love doing. It helped me relax and release all the tension I had accumulated throughout the day and let me enjoy that happy moment.”
During her junior year, Ms. Campos saw her mother’s health deteriorate. “I had to leave school and go to El Salvador in the middle of October to be with her,” the teenager said. “It was pretty hard seeing her in the condition she was in. I would never leave the house unless it was to go buy groceries or go to the doctor. Wherever we would go, I would take my camera with me. On January 28, my mother entered a state of coma. My head was somewhere else and I didn’t pack anything. All I remember was packing my camera because I knew I was going to need it. My mother passed away the following day. Those three weeks were horrific for me and as crazy as it sounds, my camera was there for me to help mitigate the pain. I was able to capture happy moments and I realized that not all of it had to be sad.”
The teenager’s photographs are simply beautiful. They display the eye of an artist along with the skills she has learned and developed over the years.
“In essence, art has enriched my life in a multitude of ways,” Ms. Campos said. “Whenever life has thrown some hard punches at my face, it’s been there for me to fill in that void. Art has made me grow up and it’s made me see a different perspective of what we call life. Self-expression plays a pivotal role in art and therefore, it has also amplified my voice and has allowed me to understand who I am.”
A member of Huntington High School’s High Honor Roll, Ms. Campos has excelled across every academic discipline.
“Johanna Campos has been my student for the past three years,” Huntington photography teacher Pamela Piffard-Williams said. “Jo is by far the one of the most creative and talented students in her class. She is someone I would consider a true artist. Jo is so creative, hard-working, and able to express her ideas. She has confidence in herself and her abilities. Jo is a wonderful example of what hard work and dedication can accomplish. She is always working on cultivating her own personal style projects. She can be found drawing, painting, sewing or working in the photo lab throughout the day. She is very dedicated to be the very best artist she can be.”