Meet National PTA’s Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant Recipients

National PTA’s Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant awards two local PTAs $1,000 in funds for student-centered programs that increase access to high quality arts learning experiences and new pathways for students – especially those hardest to reach – to participate in the arts and National PTA’s Reflections program.

We were so excited to select Jayne Ann Miller Elementary PTA in Texas and Hazelwood PTA in Washington to receive the award in 2021, and we were even more impressed with the innovative projects these two PTAs did with the grant funding. Check out their stories below!

Jayne Ann Miller Elementary PTA
Lubbock, Texas

With support from the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement grant, Jayne Ann Miller Elementary PTA, a diverse, Title 1 school, used the funds to invite Reflections students to an event and purchase new display panels that increased the school’s ability to display artwork from every student, ensuring that students receive recognition for their creative talents for many years to come. Prior to the grant, Miller Elementary School’s art teacher had to reserve display panels from a central office for a finite duration of time.

Each year, Miller Elementary School holds an annual fine arts event called Owlapalooza. This year, the PTA focused on including the Reflections Awards Ceremony during this event, making it a centerpiece of the program. The PTA sent out personalized invitations to Reflections families and provided awards to Reflections participants to boost student confidence and honor their hard work and creativity.

The new panels were a huge success and helped bring more attention to the arts. Britni Wilkins, PTA President and Program Leaders said, “Now, these panels will remain in our school building, in use permanently, so that our students’ work is always being displayed proudly for the school community to enjoy.”

Simultaneously, the PTA asked the community to support their arts programming by fulfilling wish list items. The PTA was proud that every single item requested was donated, including 28 boxes of crayons, 378 glue sticks, 5 packages of Velcro, 28 boxes of colored pencils, 500 sheets of construction paper, a package of art posters and 72 sharpies.

Jayne Ann Miller Elementary PTA reported that one of the biggest highlights of this program was watching the joy on each child’s face as they accepted their award, hugged their art teacher and showed their family members their thoughtfully displayed artwork at the front of our cafetorium. The PTA shared a story about one of our students who advanced to state level in the Reflections program, who had been struggling with self-confidence due to academic challenges. The family told the PTA that the child’s confidence soared after receiving their Reflections award and having their artwork publicly recognized.

Hazelwood Elementary School PTA
Newcastle, Washington

With financial support from the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant, the Hazelwood PTA implemented a Meet the Masters program in every K-5 classroom. The grant helped the PTA overcome barriers for participation of all students including teacher support, funding of art supplies, schedule challenges, volunteer support and sustainability.

With community input, Hazelwood PTA chose to focus on the arts because Hazelwood did not provide a standard art curriculum. The PTA formed an arts committee and advocated for the Meet the Masters, a standards-based elementary school art curriculum, in order to increase emotional development, address cultural diversity and inclusion and provide arts access to all. They presented the program to the teachers and gained their support. They also worked collaboratively to recruit an art docent and 25 new volunteers through outreach and information sessions to administer the program.

The Meet the Masters program provided an opportunity to explore what artists may have been feeling with opene conversations with the students. The program also explored six chosen artists from different backgrounds, including local African American artist Jacob Lawerence and Katsushika Hokusai of Japan who – despite being poor – was able to draw using rice. The program helped build curiosity and understanding of diverse artists and cultures to build a more inclusive community

At the end of the program and school year, Hazelwood PTA planned a community art gallery and Museum of Art (MOMA) fundraiser to bring the community together in celebration of the arts and to support curiosity, awareness and discussion about diversity and inclusion. Through this work, the PTA lined the halls with artwork each month which promoted conversations around art, community and connection.

Prior to the grant and Meet the Masters, the school did not have a standard art program, so it was up to each teacher to decide how, when and if art was integrated into the classroom. The Hazelwood PTA is proud that they were able to bring this important program to all students in their school community.  Teaessa Chism, Program Leader, said “The program has gained school and community awareness now. We have received positive feedback from parents and teachers with will help with future fundraising to cover supplies and future artists.” Now, the arts can be explored in every classroom, increasing access to an art curriculum that supports diversity, inclusion and social emotional development. 

Congratulations, once again, to Jayne Ann Miller Elementary PTA and Hazelwood PTA! Look for the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement grant and others to open in August. Visit PTA.org/ArtsEd and PTA.org/Grants for more information.

Congratulations to National PTA’s Outstanding Interpretation Awardees!

Thousands of young artists from across the country participated in the 2021-2022 National PTA Reflections program by creating original works of art in response to the student-selected theme: I Will Change the World By….

Winning student artworks advanced from the local PTA level to the district, region, council, state and, ultimately, to the national level. This year, National PTA received over 900 student submissions from 47 State PTA Congresses.

Credential arts professionals conducted two rounds of blind review to determine the 200+ students who received national-level recognition for their artistic accomplishments. Just seven students earned the program’s top honor: the Award of Outstanding Interpretation. They were selective because of their distinctive interpretation of the theme, creativity and technical skills.

Each Outstanding Interpretation awardee represents one of the Reflections program’s six arts categories and the Special Artist division, which include Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. Reflections encourages students with disabilities to fully participate in the program by welcoming young artists to enter through the Special Artist division.

We are excited to introduce this year’s exemplary Award of Outstanding Interpretation recipients!

Oviya Gowder–Dance Choreography
James Clemens High School PTSA, Alabama

Oviya conveyed a powerful message in her dance choreography, Save The Children. The piece addresses human trafficking and its threat to young adults. To set the tone for her work, her artist statement begins with a quote from author Edward Everett Hale: “I am only one, but I am one. I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” She continues to demonstrate the power of one’s actions to prevent tragedy by learning to recognize signs of human trafficking.

The artwork earned top marks because of Oviya’s original interpretation of the theme. She shares, “The Reflections contest gave me a platform to raise awareness about something that is not usually brought up or talked about. My career interest lies in the pediatrics area, and this inspired me to create a piece revolving around the safety of children.”

Yasmeen Fas–Film Production
Green Township PTA, New Jersey

Yasmeen’s film production Reduce, Reuse and Recycle incorporates careful research to demonstrate how individuals can save our planet. In her artist statement, she explains, “What is something that we all can do to help our planet? The answer is: Recycling!” The video includes compelling statistics, such as the fact that energy saved from recycling a glass bottle is equivalent to powering a lightbulb for up to 4 hours.

To explain her inspiration for the work, Yasmeen shares, “When walking my dog around the neighborhood I noticed some trash on grassy areas, behind the buildings, along sidewalks and around drains on the streets. I didn’t like what I saw, so I went home, grabbed a trash bag and picked it all up. I really wanted to show that even a small thing like that could help keep our neighborhood clean. Imagine if everyone did the same, then it would change our environment for the best!”

Dao Nguyen–Literature
Castillero Middle School PTA, California

Dao’s poem, titled Dandelion, reflects the beauty of one’s individual power. Her artist statement details this concept: “The world is a big place, and I know that being only one person in it can be daunting for young people like myself. So Dandelion is a poem about how even if you’re just one human, you can still have an effect on this world through what I believe is most important to share with other people—your passion, ideas, and stories.”

Dao shared nature’s influence on her writing. She explains, “Plants like dandelions spread their seeds around the world so they can continue to grow, even in unexpected places. [It’s] like how you can share your knowledge and creativity, so it inspires other people.” Dao notes another influence on her writing is the future reader’s perception. She notes that metaphors and analogies can be used “to connect the dots like you’re painting a picture so the reader understands your message.” Read Dao’s poem.

James Jordan–Special Artist, Music Composition
Syracuse High School PTSA, Utah

James’ thoughtful introspection stood out with his music composition piece, Change the World Right. In his artist statement, James explains, “The lyrics in the song explain how changing the world can be a positive or negative impact on others and yourself. It’s important to reflect on change because you can make decisions that could be influential and beneficial for others to learn and experience. The story behind the lyrics is how I overcame challenges in my life and adapted to a changing world.”

The song’s significance is deeply personal to James. He notes the challenges he has faced, sharing, “I struggled with autism for many years in school.” Yet, that he is “clever and artistic” and has harnessed the power of the arts to express himself. James explains, “This song is a puzzle piece of my life that will remind me of the inspiration I had to change the world. This year’s Reflections taught me that inspiration could come from anywhere and whatever happens next is a world with you in it.”

Listen to James’s song.

Sonia Singh–Music Composition
Acadia PTA, New York

Sonia shares a compelling melody with her musical composition, Rainbow. In her artist statement, she shares, “My composition, Rainbow, relates to the theme I Will Change The World By… through spreading the message that we can build a better tomorrow. Recent times have been very trying and there has been very little light in the world. Through my uplifting songs, I will help people see that there is always a way to make their lives brighter. Even if things seem bleak, we can bring out the light from inside us and together make a rainbow for everyone.”

The song allowed Sonia to convey a powerful moment in time. She shared, “I wrote this song after the worst of COVID-19 when things were starting to open up and we finally had hope for the future. In the past, there have been plenty of setbacks for us as people but I’ve realized that what matters is that we always get up again and never stop fighting.”

Listen to Sonia’s song.

Arsal Shaur–Photography
County Parkway PTA, New York

Arsal’s photograph, I Can Change the World by Enlightening Others with Knowledge, conveys a message that is near and dear to the mission of National PTA. In his artist statement, Arsal explains, “I am grateful that I have the opportunity to get an education. There are many children in the world who cannot get and afford to have a basic education. I can change the world by spreading knowledge. I can raise my voice so that every child in the world can have a basic education, at least.”

The details in the photograph further the artwork’s significance. Arsal notes that “the book in the photograph represents knowledge and the brightness in the background shows the light which knowledge brings in our lives.”

Jasmine Roldan–Visual Arts
Hicksville High School PTSA, New York

Jasmine’s detailed visual arts piece is titled Say Their Names. In her artist statement, she writes, “As a female of color in America living in such corrupt times, I hope to change the world by advocating for civil rights. All the people displayed on this piece have been subject to unjust violence leading to their deaths. Their names written within the word ‘EQUALITY’ correspond to their faces. Some of them were grandmothers to their grandchildren, track stars, or as young as 10 years old. Say their names. By doing just that, you too can change the world.”

To further highlight her inspiration for the work, Jasmine explains, “I create art to show just how much people, ideas, things matter to me. Their lives matter along with those, including myself, that look like them. I hope to ignite a spark within everyone to reflect on what they can do to be the change they want to see in the world.”

Congratulations to our I Will Change the World By… Outstanding Interpretation winners! We look forward to recognizing your achievements at the 2022 Virtual Outstanding Interpretation Reflections Winners Celebration, which will be available on National PTA’s YouTube channel July 21, 2022.   

For more inspiration, please visit PTA.org/ReflectionsAwards to find the official Reflections awards announcement, the complete list of the 200+ student winners, and our digital gallery of student works. Stay connected to National PTA on social media (@NationalPTA and #PTAReflections) as we continue to recognize and celebrate student talents throughout the year.

National PTA Continues Celebration of “I Matter Because…” Reflections Artists

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students across the country and in U.S. schools abroad participate in the National PTA Reflections program. By creating opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, Reflections boosts student confidence and success, both in the arts and in life.   

In response to an annual student-selected theme, students can submit artwork in the categories of Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. The program also offers the Special Artist Division, which recognizes students with disabilities who participate.  

As a tiered arts recognition program, student submissions can earn awards and prizes at the local, county, district, region levels. Winners from these levels then move on to the state PTA level. Finally, winning artworks from the state level proceed to the national level, where students can receive the Award of Merit, Award of Excellence, or the highest honor—the Outstanding Interpretation Award—for their artistic achievements.  

On Tuesday, Jan. 25, National PTA will host a Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase to continue to celebrate the over 200 national-level awardees from the 2020-2021 I Matter Because… program. As students and their creative talents are essential to the Reflections program, the event will feature more artwork and more students than ever before, with 22 student highlights! We are so excited to recognize all of our winners again and share the creative accomplishments of our featured artists with you.  

Top left – Anna Xie, Award of Merit in Visual Arts, Georgia
Top middle – Alea Garner, Award of Merit in Dance Choreography as a Special Artist, Utah
Top right – MaeLee Scoville, Award of Merit in Literature, Utah
Bottom left – Minjae Eum, Award of Excellence in Music Composition, Alabama
Bottom middle – Josh Devaney, Award of Excellence in Film Production, New Jersey
Bottom right – Trisha Shrestha, Award of Excellence in Dance Choreography, Washington

For a sense of the fun to come, we would like to introduce you to a selection of the featured students.  

Campbell Brown is a dancer from Russom Elementary PTA in Georgia. She won the Award of Merit for her Dance Choreography piece, “Shine Bright.” Dancing brings Campbell joy, and she likes to spread that positivity with others. In her own words, she explains, “I know that I matter because when I bring joy and happiness to others through my performance it makes the world a better place.”  

Tanishka Gupta won the Award of Merit for her poem, “I Matter to Me.” From Round Rock Senior High PTA in Texas, Tanishka shared that writing helps her express her ideas about sensitive subjects and “paint a picture with words.” The inspiration for her award-winning poem draws from the key points of individuality, self-worth, and uniqueness. Tanishka notes, “my true worth always has and always will lie inside me.”  

This year’s Reflections Student Arts Showcase will also highlight Boston Flake from Hobble Creek Elementary PTA in Utah, who won the Award of Merit for his music composition piece, “Bit Life.” (He also won an Award of Excellence during the I Matter Because… program for his literature piece, “I Can Do Anything!”) Boston, a blind DJ and music composer, has produced music for many years and performs in front of big crowds. He shared, “That is one way to show that I matter, by lifting others with my talents.” 

Want to hear from more talented student artists? Join the Reflections community and celebrate students’ creativity during the 2022 Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase at 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday, Jan. 25! The event will air on National PTA’s YouTube channelRSVP in advance to receive free Reflections-inspired activities, including an interactive game to play along with us during the event.  

If you can’t wait until Jan. 25 to view artwork from inspiring student artists, visit this virtual collection, which features the 200+ national Reflections winners from the 2020-2021 I Matter Because… Reflections program. Take a moment to view these students’ remarkable creative achievements and feel free to leave a comment or two!  

We also invite you to learn more about the top seven I Matter Because… Outstanding Interpretation awardees by reading a recent blog post and watching the award video. Congratulations once again to the recipients of the Outstanding Interpretation award: Claire Moon, Johan Novak, Joshua Johnson, Maeryn Elizabeth Jacob, Mark Wagner, Sydney Ware and Zoe Caraballo. 

For more information about the Reflections program, please visit PTA.org/Reflections.  


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA Arts in Education Fellow. 

National PTA Celebrates Look Within Reflections Artists

For over fifty years, the National PTA Reflections program has provided opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, which boost student confidence and success in the arts and in life. The arts program honors student creativity through six Reflections categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts. 

In response to an annual theme, thousands of students across the country and in U.S. schools abroad submit artwork and can be recognized with awards and prizes at the local, county, district, region and then state PTA levels. Just over 200 students are recognized at a national level for their artistic achievements in the arts each year.   

At the national level, students can earn an Award of Merit, Award of Excellence, or Outstanding Interpretation Award. Each year, National PTA typically honors the national winners and their artwork with in-person events—including the Student Arts Showcase at the U.S. Department of Education. This year, due to COVID-19, National PTA hosted its first-ever Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase.  

Held January 26, the digital event brought Reflections supporters together to celebrate the national winners from the 2019-2020 Look Within program. The Showcase featured one national winner from each Reflections category and our Special Artist Division.

Representing the Dance Choreography category, Jacob Valadez kicked off the featured student artist performances. Jacob’s dance, “Look Within Yourself Be Unstoppable,” expresses the value of personal strength. Although life can be hard, Jacob demonstrates that everyone can be unstoppable by looking within and never giving up. We are grateful he shared this powerful sentiment with us. 

After Jacob, we enjoyed Matthew Bang’s visual arts piece, “I Realize and Recognize.” As the featured Special Artist, Matthew’s painting depicts his family’s Korean heritage and his own identity as a Korean American. Matthew shared, “Art is a form of expression. It allows me to convey emotions that are too difficult to express in words alone.” His detailed visual arts piece beautifully communicates a vast depth of meaning! 

Jiya Bhavsar wowed us with “Struggling Within Me.” Through her piano performance, Jiya represented the music composition category and showcased the power of perseverance. She explained, “I look within when I feel like ‘I give up’ and then I say, ‘Try again.’” We are all inspired by Jiya’s tenacity. 

As the featured artist for the photography category, Barbara Exilus’s photograph “Look Within” depicts the pressure that many young people feel when trying to achieve unrealistic beauty standards and social norms. Barbara shared, “I want my artwork to speak and touch people in any way it can.” Barbara truly conveyed a compelling message through her photograph. 

Melissa Qiu, the featured artist for the literature category, impressed with her poem, “Breaking the Silence and Filling the Minds.” Her writing details the beauty of the zither, which, Melissa shares is a “a very magical and traditional musical instrument because it has allowed me to look within myself and my Chinese culture.” We appreciate Melissa’s creative use of language to bridge musicmaking and her ancestral heritage.  

As the representative of the Visual Arts category, Katie Ross Nelson shared her wearable sculpture. Meticulously constructed, “The Swan” dress showcases fashion as a means of self-expression. Katie found inspiration from actor Billy Porter, who, by wearing a dress to the 2019 Oscars, “flipped the stereotype and made the dress a symbol of inner strength.” Thank you, Katie, for sharing your compelling work of art with us. 

The last featured artist, Dayton Kress, closed out the show with his film production. Titled “Within Us All,” Dayton demonstrates the power of compassion. He shared, “It is important to understand that we can all lift each other up in times of need. We all go through things, and sometimes we just need a little support along the way.” Dayton’s film shares a timeless message—be kind to one another!  

As our hosts for the evening, Leslie Boggs, National PTA President, and Nathan R. Monell, CAE, Executive Director of National PTA, expressed the value of the arts in a student’s education—especially in the era of COVID-19. Bonnie Carter, the Group Leader of Arts in Education Programs for the U.S. Department of Education, shared a congratulatory message to all Reflections participants. The Department of Education is a valuable supporter of the Reflections program, and we thank Bonnie for joining us virtually!

Our celebration of the arts continues with a virtual exhibit featuring the 200+ national Reflections winners from the 2019-2020 program. Take a moment to view the remarkable creative achievements of our program participants, ranging from detailed paintings in the visual arts category to graceful dance choreography movements. The artwork may encourage you to Look Within!  

Visit PTA.org/Reflections to learn more about Reflections and share your artwork with @NationalPTA using #PTAReflections. Missed the Showcase? Find the full program on National PTA’s YouTube channel


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA arts in education fellow. 

Collection: 2019-2020 Look Within National PTA Reflections Award Recipients (flickr.com)

We Have a Winner! The Reflections Program’s Annual Theme Search is Complete

Did you know that students develop the Reflections program’s annual overarching theme? Each year, students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad submit theme suggestions for a future Reflections program cycle. The Reflections Theme Search Contest’s winning theme goes on to inspire thousands of student artists. 

We are excited to announce that Jason Yevin, a 10th grader from Salk/Macarthur PTSA in New York, is the 2022-2023 Reflections Theme Search Contest winner! The 2022-2023 Reflections program theme will be … [drumroll please] … ‘Show Your Voice!’. Congratulations to Jason! 

To determine the 2022-2023 Reflections program’s theme, students submitted their most inventive ideas to their State PTAs. State PTAs then submitted up to five finalist themes to National PTA. In total, over 80 students from 20 states participated in the 2022-2023 Reflections Theme Search Contest. National PTA volunteer leaders led the judging process, and they faced the challenging task of selecting a winning theme that was unique and inspiring, and that promoted PTA values.  

‘Show Your Voice!’ rose to the top because of its relevance today and continued importance into the future. Jason explained the inspiration for his theme submission as follows:  

“Show Your Voice is a reference to what the year 2020 has become. At the time of writing the phrase, the Black Lives Matter protest was huge, and so was wearing masks during COVID-19. The phrase represents talking over the masks and it represents that the protesters showed their voice in what they believe was right and fair. 

Volunteer leaders from New York State PTA, Nassau Region PTA and Salt/Macarthur PTSA came together (in a socially distant manner), to surprise Jason with the news that he had won the National Reflections Theme Search Contest!  

In honor of Jason’s great accomplishment, he will receive national recognition and $100 from National PTA. During the 2022-2023 Reflections program, we look forward to seeing Reflections participants’ creative work inspired by ‘Show Your Voice!’ With his winning submission, Jason joins the ranks of just 54 students who have shaped the future of the Reflections program by determining the theme that guides an entire program cycle.  

Currently, the theme, ‘I Matter Because…’, is inspiring Reflections participants. In the fall of 2018, Rylee Stier, a first-grader from Burney Elementary School, submitted the theme for the 2020-2021 Reflections program after drawing inspiration from the devastating California wildfires affecting her community. With the call for meaningful steps to dismantle structural racism, ‘I Matter Because…’ has taken on new meaning and an even greater opportunity to engage and elevate the voices of students of color.  

In fact, National PTA has launched a new initiative to invite Reflections artists of color and their allies to share artwork that expresses and affirms their beliefs and identities. Select works will be used to help us celebrate diversity in the arts. Please share this opportunity with young artists in your state and upload artwork to this Google Form by March 1, 2021. National PTA will announce our national winners on May 1, 2021 and celebrate artwork inspired by ‘I Matter Because…’ through July 2021. 

We encourage all Reflections supporters to help shape the future of the Reflections program by participating in the annual Theme Search Contest. Visit your state PTA’s Reflections Program page to learn more about the Reflections program and the complete list of past themes. 

And don’t forget to share your artwork with @NationalPTA using #PTAReflections! 


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA arts in education fellow. 

Congratulations, 2019-2020 Reflections Outstanding Interpretation Winners!

On May 1, National PTA announced the 2019-2020 Reflections winners for the student-selected theme Look Within. Over 200 students across 40 State PTA Congresses were recognized for their achievements in Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts. Seven students were named Outstanding Interpretation winners, which is the highest achievement in the Reflections program. We are very proud of these students and would like to share their work, artist statements and creative processes.

Makenna Miller – Dance Choreography

Makenna is from Missouri and choreographed a dance she calls “Look Within.” In her artist statement, she says, “In this piece, I want to tell a story of someone going through life in search of true happiness. They’ve been trying to be someone they’re not and always making other people happy, while never feeling like who they truly are and meant to be. Eventually, they realize that if they look within, they find their own beautiful qualities that make them unique… even glorious and magnificent. That is when true happiness is found and nothing else matters. I chose this song because I felt like my choreography could really bring the lyrics to life.”

When she was choreographing this piece, Makenna incorporated the moving lyrics of the song into her movements. She says, “There are so many beautiful and emotional lyrics in this song, so it was a lot of trial and error to get the flow and story I was looking for. Since I am a dancer, I have a lot of inspiration to take from, whether it’s my time in class, conventions, my teachers, or my own improv time. As I was creating this piece I always kept in mind that I wanted to project a feeling. A feeling that grows over time. A feeling of jealousy, doubt, confusion, but also hope.”

Harper Phillips – Special Artist – Dance Choreography

Harper is from Oklahoma and created a dance inspired by her experiences with dyslexia. Her piece, called “Dancing with Dyslexia,” shows how she deals with dyslexia and the joy dancing brings her. “Dance makes me happy. When school is hard, I can dance. Dance gives me hope. It is hope that is always there, even when dyslexia makes stuff hard.”

When Harper is choreographing, she says “I feel the emotions and let them out through my body. I want people to see how it feels instead of tell them.”

Gabriel Irving – Film Production

Gabriel is from North Carolina, and his film “Look Within” encourages people to find their own unique qualities to combat peer pressure. He says, “I was inspired to film this video because my grandmother told me to make a great success out of my life. I also filmed my video to show the shadow of peer pressure, and how we should see the good in ourselves and not be influenced by other people. When my grandmother passed away, I had to look within to find myself again.”

Jax Thompson – Literature

Jax from Kentucky wrote a poem called “Reflecting on RE-AL-I-TY,” is about his search for superheroes and finding one within himself

His artist statement says, “I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help our world. I may only be a kid, but I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make a difference. It takes a lot of courage to express what I’m feeling inside, but I know that until I give my inside thoughts a voice that I can’t make things happen or be the real me. It’s scary to think about stepping up to make a change, but I know I can do it! We all have a ‘Super H’ inside!”

“When I put my thoughts into words, art and music it makes me feel so good inside! My writing sets me free! I hope that when people read my words, they see that we can all find the strength to make a difference. We can’t wait for superheroes to fly in and save the day! We all need to step up to help the world, especially now! When I wrote my poem, the words poured out of me like water pouring out of a glass. My mom and dad have always inspired me to march to my own drum and express myself! I do that with my writing and I’m never going to stop!”

Illasell Tan – Music Composition – California

Illasell lives in California and wrote a song called “Look Within Yourself.” She says, “my composition consists of me singing with the accompaniment of the piano played by myself. The song shows how you should accept who and what you are and that nobody’s perfect. It relates to the theme by explaining how you should look within yourself to find that you are worth more than you believe you are. Whenever in doubt, reflect and realize that you matter.”

Leahalani Adolfo – Photography – Hawaii

Leah lives in Hawaii and used a unique process to capture her photograph, which she titled The Light Within. Her photograph is about finding light within ourselves. Leah says “Autophobia, the fear of oneself. We desire to be accepted so much that we hide ourselves. We’ve hidden ourselves so deep it’s a long and difficult quest to find the light within us that shines so bright. The light represents all the good and potential inside every human being. To create this photo, I first cut out a heart on a piece of cardboard. I then put it on my mirror and sprayed it with water. I turned off the light and turned on my flash to create this lighted effect.”

Kaycie Colton – Visual Art

Kaycie, who is from Virginia, used her battle with a painful disease as inspiration for her painting Burn to Born. “My life changed when I was hospitalized with Steven Johnsons Syndrome, the recurrent type. The first occurrence was the worst. In the burn unit, my entire body was wrapped in bandages. I was blistering and burning from the inside out. I needed a feeding tube because of oral damage and eye surgery to save my vision. I had to look deep inside myself for inner strength and find patience and perseverance. I would not allow the fire to devour me. My flesh was burned, but my new found strength underneath was unveiled. Much like the phoenix, I was reborn.”

I found out while still in the hospital for the second time with Steven Johnson’s Syndrome the 2019-2020 Reflections theme. I used a picture taken of me while I was at my worst and wanted change it so that it would reflect my inner strength. Instead of being unable to move, wrapped from head to toe, and in so much pain from my burning skin, I showed myself being transformed. I always loved images of phoenixes rising from the ashes and I wanted that to be me, rising, new and better.

We have been so inspired by all of our Reflections participants. Their masterpieces show their interpretation of the theme “Look Within,” and many students used their introspection to inspire others to do so. Congratulations to our seven Outstanding Interpretation winners, and we look forward to celebrating with everyone at the virtual PTA Convention & Expo and throughout the year. Visit PTA.org/ReflectionsAwards for a full winners’ list and highlights. Thank you so much for your continued support of the Reflections program. Don’t forget to participate in the 2020-2021 theme “I Matter Because…” Learn more about Reflections and register to show National PTA that you are participating here!

Thank you, 2019-2020 National PTA Reflections Reviewers

As we begin to celebrate the talented young winners of the 2019-2020 Reflections program who responded to the student-selected theme “Look Within,” we’d like to give a special round of applause to all of our national round reviewers! The national round judges review the top student submissions from every state. Our judges look at each student’s entry and artist statement in the six Reflections categories of Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Visual Arts, as well as our Special Artist Division.

This year, our national round reviewers saw almost 1,000 submissions from 47 State PTAs and the European PTA! The reviewers carefully evaluate each work using both the artwork and the artist statement to make their decisions. We are so grateful to these volunteer reviewers for donating their time and artistic expertise to help us name the Outstanding Interpretation winners, Award of Excellence winners and Award of Merit winners. Thanks to the reviewers’ hard work, National PTA is able to recognize over 200 student artists and award over $21,000 in scholarship funds to our national-level winners.

The national round reviewers are all artists themselves, ranging from songwriters to professional photographers to choreographers to film makers! The organizations they work with include the Smithsonian Institution, NPR Music, Opera Lafayette, Arts Access NC, the Chrysler Museum and the International Consortium for Advancement in Choreography, Inc. All of the reviewers value the impact the arts had on their childhood and their current artistic process.

Several of the reviewers were new to the process, and loved being part of it! One of the Dance Choreographer reviewers said this about her experience, “I absolutely adored every minute of reviewing dance submissions for the Reflections awards…I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but as soon as I clicked “Play” on the first entry in my queue I actually found myself teary-eyed.”

When asked about her first memory of creating something was, a Photography reviewer revealed that her connection to art started with Reflections! “My first memory of making art is honestly a Reflections contest when I was 10 or 12. It was the first time I used a camera with the purpose of making art…I felt so cool and professional!”

We are so grateful to our reviewers for their support of Reflections and helping us to recognize students’ accomplishments in the arts, especially in a time when we’re all turning to the arts for communication, comfort and creativity. We could not do this without the volunteer leadership that these arts professionals provide.

Visit PTA.org/Reflections on Friday, May 1st for the announcement of the 2019-2020 Reflections “Look Within” winners and to learn more about the 2020-2021 theme “I Matter Because…”For more information on the awards our winners receive, visit PTA.org/ReflectionsAwards

My Parent, My Advocate, My Hero

The 2018-2019 National PTA Reflections theme is “Heroes Around Me”. As time goes on, with all the drama and strife in the news, there is an ever-increasing need for our children to have a hero in their life. Someone who they know and believe will be there to root for them, even when all odds are stacked against them. As an association, we advocate to make every child’s potential become a reality. Our members are children’s heroes—our parents, our teachers, our administrators and our community leaders.

Those that advocate for children are heroes. Advocates of our children and students are passionate and will fight with everything they have, till their last breath if they must. My hero, at least, did this for me. She advocated for me because of that belief in my potential, even when countless others did not. My hero is my mom, Rebecca Thomas, who is a former Advocacy Partner for the New York State PTA, past-president of the Monroe Woodbury SEPTA in Orange County, New York and the proud mother of a son with autism.

My mom’s advocacy efforts for families with students with special needs began over a decade ago when I was not receiving the adequate services that I needed as listed in my Individualized Education Plan (IEP). She directly advocated for improved services for me by calling and writing letters to members of the school board, the district superintendent and the state’s department of education.

Indirectly, after seeing how her advocacy benefited her child, my mom joined the local PTA because she wanted to help other parents learn how to become advocates for their own children. She served as an officer in the local PTA, as well as on the district’s council and the regional board. In 2008, she became an active member and leader with another organization, Parents United Learning the Special Education System (PULSES), to help parents navigate the special education system and advocate for services for their children.

I am now attending college online at Southern New Hampshire University and pursing a degree in Human Services because of the advocacy efforts of my mom. In addition, I am serving on the Illinois and National PTA Board of Directors where I continue her work to advocate for all children, especially those with special needs. I do this knowing the level of impact advocacy has had on my own life.

By advocating for my education, my mom has also become an advocate for every child to receive a high-quality education. She believes, as all PTA members believe, that with a high-quality education, all children can lead a meaningful life, regardless of what challenges they face. I feel that the work she accomplished through the PTA has helped give me the foundation and support critical to succeeding in not just school but in life. Now, who is your hero?