The theme of this year's National PTA Reflections Art Awards program was "within your reach."

But in essence, that is the theme of each year's event, said Jenny Paskvan, chairwoman of the South-Western Council of PTAs Reflections program.

"It's a chance for students to explore their creativity and self-expression through art and to realize that everyone can be an artist," she said. "We wanted our students to know that if you can create it, then art is within your reach."

The organization held its awards ceremony for the program March 20 at Pleasant View Middle School.

Students were honored for their works in visual arts, photography, literature, music, dance and film in the primary, intermediate, middle and senior grade levels.

Students from 30 South-Western schools submitted 476 entries for this year's Reflections art show, which was held in January.

Panels of judges evaluated entries based on how they fit this year's theme as well as on artistic ability and message.

"I'm just amazed by the creativity of our students," said Joy Metzger, president of the South-Western Council of PTAs. "They take a simple theme like 'within your reach' and take it in so many amazing directions in the pieces they create.

"I love the Reflections program because it allows them to capture their imagination," she said.

The top three students in each grade and category had their work forwarded to the state competition, Paskvan said.

Fifteen local students earned honorable mention or awards of merit, excellence or outstanding achievement at the state level.

Three students qualified for the national PTA Reflections by earning awards of excellence. They are Analeigh Santos, South-Western Preschool, literature; Lukas Althoff, Monterey Elementary School, film; and Zaroon Daljir, South-Western Preschool, photography.

Darby Woods Elementary School fourth-grader Abigail Cochran won a local third-place award in visual arts and first place in literature.

Abigail said she always has enjoyed doing creative work, both visually and through her words.

"I just like being able to express things that I feel," she said. "What's best about it is that I have the freedom to create anything I want. It's just what I come up with in my imagination."

Her visual arts piece was a cross made of wood with paper and glitter elements pasted onto it.

Alton Hall Elementary School second-grader Marylynn Fyffe won third place in visual arts in the primary level for her drawing of a fairy.

"I was going to do a drawing of myself at first, but then I decided I could draw a fairy," she said. "I really like fairies because they are so magical."

Marylynn said she also enjoys drawing animals.

"I like to give them big heads and big eyes that make them really cute," she said. "My favorite animal to draw is a fox. I really like drawing foxes because they are red and have such long bodies."

Art is not just a hobby for Marylynn, it's her life ambition.

"I want to be an artist in Paris," she said. "I would love to open my own studio there someday."

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