BLOOMINGDALE – For more than three decades, Community Consolidated School District 93’s Parent Teacher Organizations (PTA) have supported the National PTA Reflections program, which encourages students to explore their talents and express themselves through the arts.
This year, students from Stratford and Jay Stream middle schools and Heritage Lakes, Cloverdale and Roy DeShane elementary schools participated in the program.
The National PTA Reflections program, developed in 1969 by Colorado PTA President Mary Lou Anderson, was created for students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. Since its beginning, millions of students have been inspired to reflect and bring the year’s theme to life through dance, choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts.
This year’s theme is The Magic of a Moment.
In 2012, the Special Artist Division was developed for students whose physical, cognitive or mental health challenges meet the American with Disabilities Act guidelines.
“Personally, I think it’s the only way some kids can express themselves. It opens up that door,” said Stratford Middle School PTA President Heather Phillips about the category addition.
Some district students’ entries advanced to the DuPage West Region, with two Stratford Middle School students’ entries progressing to the Illinois state level. They included eighth-grader Elizabeth Jaurigue, for her visual category entry, “Building Up Magic,” and seventh-grader Samantha O’Connell, for her literature category entry, “The Photo Album.”
However only one district student’s entry, that of Stratford Middle School fifth grader Toma Obayashi, advanced to the national level in the Special Artist Division, which depicts geometric shapes resembling gears.
“We want people to know he has a special talent. And not only him, but other autistic kids have other special talents,” said Yumiko Obayashi, Toma’s mother. “Now he is very proud, happy and has more confidence. He can draw something and we know what he is thinking.”
Toma participated in last year’s Reflections program, which prompted his mom to encourage him to participate again this year.
“I think it’s awesome that they have a special category,” said Michelle Budz, Toma’s teacher. “He loves to draw robots, pin wheels and things from his memory.”
The Reflections program gives all students a chance to shine.
“Students have an array of talents. I’ve seen firsthand how a student may struggle in a particular subject area, but shine in another, like the arts that are highlighted by this program,” said English Language Learners (ELL) teacher and Stratford’s PTA Reflections chairwoman Paula Hennessey. “Seeing students pursue accomplishments and recognizing where their talents lie can be a very powerful thing.”
In speaking about the Special Artist Division, Hennessey said that it is important for children to compete with students with comparable ability.
Toma’s artwork will be displayed throughout the 2013-14 school year on the national PTA website, www.pta.org/programs/ArtisinEducation
The PTA’s 2013-14 Reflections program theme is Believe, Dream, Inspire, which was one of thousands submitted by students to their State PTA organizations for future Reflections’ themes.
According to Phillips, students already are thinking of what they will create for next school year’s Reflections’ program.