Reflections of success

Reflections Awards
Reflections Awards

The Dallas Examiner

“As a parent myself I never encouraged my son to be a part of the arts and when I look back I think, how did I miss the opportunity?” expressed Dr. Cynthia Wilson, Dallas ISD chief of staff, as she welcomed parents and students to the Dallas ISD Northeast, Northwest and Trinity Councils of PTAs Reflections Awards Ceremony.

The celebration of the creative arts was held at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on March 22.

“One evening he said to his father and I, ‘Are you guys coming to my show?’” the doctor explained. “And we were like, ‘Show? What are you talking about?’”

Her son had learned to play guitar and became a member of a band on his own initiative, she told the crowd that gathered.

Let Your Imagination Fly was the theme for the 2015-2016 challenge. The philosophy behind the contest was “The arts play a critical role in student’s success in school and beyond, enhancing their reading and language skills, mathematical skills, thinking skills, social skills and motivation to learn,” according to the Dallas ISD Councils of PTAs.

However, Wilson broke it down to a more personal level.

“… It’s so important to not only develop the academic child but to develop the whole child, so we are so encouraged by all of these students here,” she voiced. “We are so encouraged by all these parents who have joined us tonight.”

The three councils that serve the Dallas ISD are the “first line of support” for local PTAs. They are based upon geographic regions of the district and encompass their respective local high schools as well as the area “feeder” elementary, junior high and magnet schools.

The grade divisions for the contest are primary (pre-kindergarten to second grade), intermediate (grades third through fifth), middle school (grades sixth through eighth), high school (grades ninth through 12th) and Special Artist, a grade division for special needs students.

The categories open for entries are dance choreography, film production, literature, musical composition, photography and visual arts.

Maria Arita, mistress of ceremonies and Emmy-winning former CBS news anchor/reporter, noted that she had close ties to the awards since she was the parent of a Booker T. student herself.

“We’ve been a little bit melancholy,” the proud mom admitted. “My daughter – she’s a music student, so she’ll be graduating in May, and just when this was happening to my now-28-year-old son when he was 18, I remember you could hear a pin drop in the room.”

Honors for five different prize levels were handed out at the ceremony and included the Participation Award, Honorable Mention, Overall Award of Merit, Award of Excellence and the highest honor, Overall Award of Excellence.

Entries that garnered that award – for their exceptional interpretation of the Reflections theme, extreme creativity and extraordinary execution – were advanced to the Texas PTA level of the competition. Winners there will move on to the later national judging.

Competition was fierce since there were more than 1,000 entries that went on to the statewide judging tier, one official said.

As Arita acknowledged the procession of winners throughout the evening she noted that Evan Smith of Jimmie T. Brashear Elementary, Trinity Council, was named as a recipient of the Award of Excellence for the visual arts category in the primary division. Smith also earned the Overall Award for Excellence in photography, which in turn netted him Honorable Mention in the larger statewide competition.

Taryn Watson, also from Brashear, Trinity Council, was awarded the Overall Award of Excellence for visual arts in the intermediate division.

Additional Overall Award of Excellence winners from the Trinity Council were Saumya Rawat, Rudraksh Garg, Elvina Almeida, Moises Arellano and Audrey Ruliawan. Brashear student Angel Gael Campos will advance from the state to the national competition at the primary level for his literature entry.

From the Northeast Council, Overall Award of Excellence honorees brought on stage included Madeline Balgooyen, Jillian Gay, Kendall Moyse, Porter Pope, Rodallegas-Perez, Laurel Rutherford, Zia Bella Seltzer-Blair, Irina Starostin, Harry Straughn and Isabella Vitale.

Those within the Northwest Council zone who earned the Overall Award of Excellence were Mathilda Chuard, Martina D’Orso, Finley Dunn, Christopher Emery, Barrett Gibbins, Nate Golden and Melody Hernandez.

“Thank you for gracing us with your art, your presence and all the things that you’ve created out of your instinct and everything that just came out of your heart and soul, and yet you’re pouring it out and giving it to us and sharing it with us,” Arita said at one point during the ceremony as she addressed the students directly. “We really appreciate that.”

The theme for the 2016-2017 awards is “What Is Your Story?” More information about the contest can be found at


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