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Colonie Central High School News
winning billboard
billboard winner and speaker

Top photo: This year's winning billboard design created by CCHS student Morgan Robertson. Bottom photo: Robertson and Sandy LaPlante, who inspired Morgan's billboard design, speak to the media.

'Life Sentence' Wins 2017 CCHS Billboard Design Contest

For the past three years now, Sandy LaPlante has struggled through life on an artificial leg and with the use of a cane.

“A drunk driver hit me … and I got the life sentence,” she said.

Today, with the help of Colonie Central High School junior Morgan Robertson, Sandy’s story became large than life for everyone to see. Her prosthesis leg and message will be displayed for the next month on a Colonie billboard along Rt. 155 just south of Central Avenue.

Robertson, who heard Sandy’s story and wanted to illustrate it for others, became this year’s winner of the annual student billboard design contest sponsored by the high school art department.

“She really inspired me because she’s a real person with a real story,” said Robertson, surround by two busloads of students and the media at this morning’s surprise unveiling. “I hope through my message people realize this is not something uncommon … it can happen to anyone.”

That "anyone" was Sandy on June 14, 2014. She was eight miles from her home on Rt. 111 near Coeymans Hollow when a drunk driver hit her. The impact caused Sandy to lose her left leg from the knee down.

Robertson and her other classmates heard Sandy’s story an Albany County “Choices” conference where Sandy regularly speaks to teens about the dangers of drinking and driving. Robertson then asked Sandy if she could be the subject of her billboard design and she gladly agreed.

“I really want to get the word out especially to this age group,” LaPlante explained. “It’s so important to me, and wherever I speak, I always end with that same line … ‘I got the life sentence.’”

Robertson met with Sandy at the high school and took the photo that soon became to focal point of her work. She then designed the billboard as part of her Digital Art class, along with 87 other students who submitted their own billboard designs this year.

“It took a lot of planning and thought,” Robertson said.

Sixth straight year for billboard design contest

This is the sixth straight year since 2012 that Lamar Advertising has sponsored the CCHS billboard contest. The contest challenges high school students each spring to produce a billboard with an important social message that will connect with peers their age. It must carry a catchy message and the professional art work to back it up.

Contest participants work on their projects for several weeks in their Digital Photography class taught by Christine Festin and the Digital Merchandising and Design course taught by Justin Defazzio.

Lamar employees and clients pick the winner each year from the student submissions using a simple grading system. In addition to this year’s dangers of drinking and drinking theme, other billboard campaigns have focused on heroin abuse and texting and driving.

Lamar traditionally pays the cost of producing the billboard artwork and donates the space for at least four weeks. A four-week billboard rental at that busy traffic location retails for nearly $6,000, and collects an estimated 60,000-plus views per week. After the four weeks, the poster will be used at other Lamar billboard locations throughout the year as space opens up.