College-bound journalists Heather McRea and Kelly Chau, both 18, have won a writing competition aimed at educating students about the great amount of damage done by graffiti vandalism.
Sponsored by the city and the Santa Ana Unified School District, the contest offered $100 prizes to student newspapers whose reporters and editorial writers best described the harm that graffiti does to the city, district spokeswoman Diane Thomas said.
McRea and Chau were among about 40 students who attended a March press conference at which city officials spoke about their plans to thwart taggers and other vandals.
At the conference, Mayor Daniel H. Young and Police Chief Paul M. Walters urged student journalists to help discourage graffiti vandalism.
McRea, a recent Century High School graduate who wrote for CHS Today, won in the best news article category.
Illustrating the magnitude of the problem, she wrote that the city spends $1.2 million a year on graffiti removal--enough to "buy 43,478 tickets to Disneyland, build two new soccer fields with bleachers or construct 20 basketball courts with lights."
Chau, a Valley High School graduate who wrote for the Falcon, won in the best editorial category.
She wrote that by publicizing penalties for taggers, the city may deter some taggers but added that preventive education for younger students would also help.
Furthermore, she wrote, the community must address the causes of tagging, which "gives the tagger something that he is sorely lacking and needs--peer recognition. This is something he will be hard-pressed to give up."
Both students plan to attend UC San Diego in the fall.