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Grace Woodward '15 (Jan Somma-Hammel)

Grace Woodward ’15 was so clearly overjoyed at her commencement, it looked like she wanted to jump right out of the picture.

Last Saturday, the powerful, jubilant image of Woodward captured last year by veteran Staten Island Advance photojournalist Jan Somma-Hammel won a feature photo prize from the Associated Press, taking second place in the category at this year’s New York State AP Association awards program in Saratoga Springs.

“Wait, this is crazy!” Woodward said when she learned of the AP prize for her photo.

Woodward, a Dallas, Texas native, well remembered the moment captured by Somma-Hammel’s camera.

“I was told at 16 that I would have to attend Arkansas or Arizona State because they had a Dyslexia/Learning Different program,” she recalls. “They told me my GPA was too low to get into any of the schools I really wanted to attend.

“But, as my dad always says, ‘If you want to do something, you have to figure out how to do it.’

“So I figured it out,” Woodward said, “and I went to the college of my choice: Wagner.

“Thanks so much to Jan for capturing one of the proudest moments of my life thus far!”

Jan Somma-Hammel has been shooting for the Staten Island Advance since 1989, where she’s photographed hundreds of high school and college graduations over the years; she’s been shooting Wagner College commencements since at least 2001. Somma-Hammel has won numerous AP awards for her work and garnered a prestigious Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to photograph on a daily basis,” she says.

And what is Grace Woodward doing today, a year after graduating from Wagner College with a theater performance degree?

“I’m acting and auditioning for commercials and films,” she says, “and I’m looking to move to L.A. soon to further my career in TV and voiceovers.”

To learn more about Woodward, visit her website.

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