Reagan students win first at Reflections contest

Taylor Ann Hartley, Online-Editor-in-Chief

The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Reflections Contest is an annual art contest in which students compete on a national level. Each year, over 300,000 students in Pre-K through Grade 12 create original works of art in response to a student-selected theme. The students submit their completed works of art in one or all of the available arts categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts. Many Reagan students entered their works into the contest, three of which won first place. Among these are first-place winners in the Literature category, junior Julianne Gryder and senior Stephanie Rodriquez.

The student-selected theme for the 2019-2020 school year is “Look Within.” Each piece is judged on interpretation, creativity, and its relation to their respective art forms. The students that are the most vulnerable and honest through their respective art forms are the ones that find the most success in the competition. 

“For my piece, I wrote about how in relationships we often let worries ruin good moments; how someone can be so anxious about if a relationship has a future that they miss out on the good parts in the present,” Gryder said.

The contest allows students to write about topics meaningful to them. The broad theme allows for many interpretations.

“I wrote about how I feel about my own mind,” Rodriquez said. “What inspired me to write it was the pressure of a deadline and the pressure put on me by other people.”

Gryder’s success in the contest was gradual, but after continual entries, she achieved her desired level of success.

“I’ve entered Reflections every year of high school and placed, although this is the first year I’ve gotten first,” Gryder said.

Teachers such as English teacher David Beveridge are advocates for the contest. They encourage students to use it not only as a creative outlet but also as a resume and self-esteem builder.

“There are very few opportunities for kids who write creatively to win awards,” Beveridge said. “It truly gives students the chance to see how good they are.”

Gryder chose to enter the contest because of her passion for writing. She wanted a way for her work to be recognized as a young writer and found that in the Reflections contest.

“I enjoy entering because it gives me a goal to work towards and a reason to write, which I enjoy but I don’t make enough time for it,” Gryder said.

The Reflections contest is a way for students to publicize their pieces of art and be recognized for their success. It brings an outlet for the students not otherwise available.

“Even though I don’t enter to win, it means a lot to me when I do,” Rodriquez said. ”To win means someone is listening, and if someone is listening then the emotions I go through are worth it.”

Gryder credits her win to hard work and support from teachers. Her writing process involves an initial idea followed by editing and revising.

“I start brainstorming general ideas and usually just write a piece in one sitting,” Gryder said. “Then I go over it with a teacher, usually Mr. Beveridge, and he gives great suggestions and then I revise and edit with him before submitting.”

 Beveridge is an example of one of many Reagan teachers that help the students with their various art forms for the Reflections contest. Specifically, he helps students through the writing and revision process each day so their final product is the best representation of their work.

“One of the things we focus on is ‘purpose plus audience equals content,” Beveridge said. “This means we analyze the audience that will be judging the piece. Then the student writes the honest and real stories the audience will want to hear.”

Gryder and Rodriquez both hope they can inspire others to participate in the contest. They were both encouraged by the contest and desire others to have a similar positive experience.

“It was really nice to win first place this year because I probably worked harder on this piece than I’ve worked on the ones in the past,” Gryder said. “It just shows that hard work pays off and makes me feel like I’ve grown as a writer.”

The winners for Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County Schools were recognized on March 6 at Paisley Magnet School. The event was attended by award recipients, families, PTA representatives, and principals of each school. 

Additional congratulations to Reagan students Victoria Clinger, Sarah Extrom, Kylee Edge, Jay’la Lin, Sarah Mathis, and Mauriah Turner.