Elk Meadows Elementary second grader Isabelle Palmer likes rainbows and writing about animals, so she combined them in a short story titled, “The Rainbow Zebra.” The story received national acclaim.
“I wrote it out on some notebook paper and entered it into my school Reflections program,” Isabelle said.
Isabelle, along with South Jordan Middle’s Shalaya Farr and Bingham High’s Jeffrey Wang, won each level of the Parent-Teacher Association Reflections contest, starting with their school level to being named state winners in March. Their work advanced to nationals and it was announced that Isabelle and Jeffrey were the award of excellence winners at the national level and Shalaya was a national award of merit winner on May 2 at a ceremony at The Leonardo. Shayala won in photography and Jeffrey in visual art.
At the ceremony, they were presented wooden plaques for their state win. Isabelle and Jeffrey received a rosette ribbon with a promise of a medallion and $200 for their national awards. The students’ work will be displayed at The Leonardo’s exhibit, “SPARK!” through this summer as well as exhibited nationally at the U.S. Department of Education beginning in 2016.
“I thought, ‘whoa, this is a big opportunity’ when I learned I won. I’ve read the story to my class,” Isabelle said, who also took in her plaque and ribbon to show her classmates.
Isabelle’s story is about black-and-white striped zebra classmates accepting their classmate Alice, the rainbow zebra whom they once ridiculed. She said it fits the theme, “The World Can Be a Better Place If.”
“The world would be a better place if we can accept everyone for who they are. The best part is when everyone thinks Alice is nice,” she said.
High school senior Jeffrey Wang said he was “kind of surprised,” but also recognized his artistic abilities have improved in time and he thanks Bingham High art teachers for helping him develop it.
“I used Prismacolor pencils for this piece and the piece took me approximately nine hours to complete. I did it mostly on my own, but my art teacher suggested some refinements,” he said.
He has used this piece, entitled “Gasping for Air,” which shows the growing problem of pollution in the world, as part of his portfolio he submitted to the Advanced Placement College Board.
“I decided to take a problem that everyone knows about, but express it in a metaphorical way. My piece shows that the pollution man creates not only harms himself, but ultimately the environment. This complex connection between man and nature was what inspired this piece,” Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey, who plans to attend the University of Utah in business administration and chemistry, also is Bingham High’s visual art Sterling Scholar and was an award-winner in the Utah State Senate Visual Arts Competition among other visual art awards.
He has entered Reflections every year since fourth grade, and received a state honorable mention as a sophomore and won the state title last year and also received a national honorable mention.
Shalaya has previously entered Reflections in visual art, three-dimensional art and literature, but this is her first state title and national award of merit. She entered a photo of her sister with her hands and face painted to fit the theme. It was entitled, “Painted to Perfection…That Would be Boring.”
“At school, if everyone sees a certain brand or pair of shoes, they think they’ll be cool if they all wear them, but if everyone can be themselves, they can be their own perfect, their own beautiful, instead of boring,” she said.
South Jordan Middle School’s Shalaya Farr poses by her photo entry that won the state title and the national award of merit from the Parent-Teacher Association Reflections program. Photo courtesy of Shalaya Farr
Shalaya, who loves all the arts and performs in theater and on her violin, said she was surprised to learn that she won an award at the national level.
“I took the photo with my cell phone and got it printed at Wal-Mart. The odds of winning got harder at each level, so it’s pretty amazing that I did so well,” she said.
The National PTA Reflections awards has celebrated more than 45 years of student achievement in the arts including dance, film, literature, music, photography, three-dimensional art and visual art.
Utah PTA has sponsored the Reflections program for more than 40 years.
This year’s state award of excellence winners from South Jordan also include Cannon Weaver in visual art and Aiden Barneck in three-dimensional art. Both winners are students at Jordan Ridge Elementary.
State award of merit winners include Bingham High’s Darcy Christiansen in visual art.