How NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program Impacted Me

Story and Photography by Jorel Cuomo

When I attended NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program (NHSSP) in 2004 in Portland, my eyes opened to exploring wildlife photography as a medium. I greatly benefited from the one-on-one instruction and support of fellow photographers, both peers and mentors. Before attending this program, I never knew all this support existed; I felt that I was exploring nature and my camera by myself. Being a scholarship winner gave me the opportunity to harness my potential. Being surrounding by world-class photographers that shared their knowledge and experience opened my eyes to the possibilities that awaited me in our magnificent world.

The intensive workshop improved my photographic skills, knowledge and daily workflow. The hands-on experience increased my love of photography and helped me understand what it takes to be a nature photographer. NANPA helped me realize there are other nature photographers out there that share a similar passion, and has since been fantastic in helping me network and motivate me to continue my lifelong passion.

From the Editor: Joel has since become a full-time photographer and has been recognized as a Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Colorado. His photos have racked up contest wins in Smithsonian and Nature’s Best Photography competitions. The NANPA High School Scholarship Program is an immersive education program based at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The application period for the 2020 NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program is open now through January 31, 2020. If you know a young photographer who could benefit from this great opportunity, get them to apply! Full details and the application are available on the NANPA website. The NANPA Foundation funds this and other programs. This article was originally published in 2015.

I have become quite fascinated with Asia over the past year. Some of my most memorable moments have been photographing rhinos in Nepal, tigers in India, leopards in Sri Lanka, and orangutans in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). I find the excitement of traveling and photographing wildlife to be the most rewarding thing I can do with my life.

Traveling the world has given me insight into the natural world and its diminishing habitats. I am greatly affected by where our planet is headed and would like to focus my attention on protecting natural areas through photography. I hope that by creating images that evoke emotions about the beauty and importance of nature, I can help others feel this connection and take action to conserve critical habitats and wildlife for future generations.