A Jennings County High School student who likes to capture interesting scenes with his camera found himself in one recently. Nathan Vogel was in New York City to receive a national award for his photography.

He received the Golden Key Award at the 2016 national Scholastic Art and Writing Awards ceremony June 2 at Carnegie Hall.

“When I submitted my photographs, I never dreamed I would get this far,” Vogel said.

Since 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards program has recognized the work of young artists in grades 7 through 12. Awards are given in 29 categories of art and writing, such as poetry, photography, sculpture, humor and video game design.

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Competition begins at regional levels. After achieving a gold or silver award in any of the categories, a student can advance to the state level of competition. Only the winners at each state level can advance to the national level of competition.

More than 320,000 student works were submitted in the competition this year. Less than 1 percent advanced to the national level of competition. About 660 students were honored with gold, silver or honorable mention awards, according to a Scholastic Art and Writing Awards news release.

The awards program is held in such high esteem that the Empire State Building was lit in gold lights June 2 in honor of the Gold Key winners. Notable previous Gold Key winners include Andy Warhol, Truman Capote and Stephen King.

Vogel is the first Jennings County High School student to receive the Golden Key award since his art teacher Karen Chilman received the same award as a student more than 30 years ago.

“When I won it, it wasn’t this big a deal. I mean, there was no trip to New York and no, ‘Let’s light up the Empire State Building.’ This is really something and I am so pleased for Nate to have this experience,” Chilman said.

Vogel was home-schooled until high school, when his parents Kristie and Todd Vogel decided to enroll him at Jennings High because of Chilman’s art program.

He has always liked to draw freehand, Nate Vogel said, but through his work in the art department he has expanded his interest to include photography.

Chilman helps her students enter the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards every year. However, this was the first time she opened the competition to underclassmen, she said. Vogel just completed his sophomore year.

Vogel was accompanied by his parents on his first trip to New York for the awards ceremony.

“I was pleased that Nate’s efforts were being acknowledged, but I don’t think I realized how big this was until I saw the Empire State Building lit in gold lights in honor of the awards. It was amazing,” Kristie Vogel said.

The trip was an eye-opening experience for the student.

“Things are really different in New York. Jennings County is pretty quiet and there isn’t a lot of diversity here, but in New York, just walking down the street, you see so many different kinds of people and you hear many different languages. The buildings, the food, the people, everything was amazing in New York. Everything was amazing, but the award itself is a real motivator,” Vogel said.

“I didn’t think I could do this but now it’s pushing me to work harder to do better,” he added.

Vogel said he would like to explore combining his drawing with technology to expand his artistic expression. He also said he plans to concentrate on nature photography in the future.