Students, parents and principals alike gathered at La Cañada Unified School District headquarters the evening of Feb. 20 to celebrate the 69 award-winning students at the annual Reflections program awards ceremony that puts the focus on arts.
“They were amazing, these kids are incredibly talented. We had more visual entries than usual — I think that’s becoming a more popular category. We had amazing visual artists, we had two kids out of our district that are going to the state level,” said Christine Chant, who chaired the La Cañada PTA Council Reflections program this year.
Of the 69 award-winning students at the Council level, 10 advanced to the First District Level, with a special three moving on to state finals: Nina Lidar, a fifth-grader from Paradise Canyon Elementary, garnered first place in the intermediate division for literature while La Cañada High School students Sung-Joon “Miles” Yun won first place in the middle division and Daniel Rhee the same in the senior division for visual arts.
Now in his fifth year of participating in the program, Yun also won second place in the literature category.
“The first thing I thought of was knowledge — what comes after inspiration is knowledge, new innovations and ideas,” Yun said. “[Being] that the universal symbol for knowledge is usually books, and considering that all the knowledge in the books transfer from the pages to your mind — I thought of what can portray that sort of symbolism. I eventually came up the idea of connecting the hairs — each individual hair of the human to the pages of the book, to the book and the human mind as one.”
Yun will be making his second trip to the state level, having achieved second in the state for visual arts when he was in the fifth grade. His father, Sangho Yun, spoke on the importance of a program like Reflections.
“It’s 100% voluntary, it’s a self driven project — of course they get a gentle push from their parents,” the senior Yun said. “It has a generous time period, which I like…I’ve seen Miles almost done with [drawings] and redoing them all over. It’s a learning process, over time, and a self-training process. This is a very important thing for him, he doesn’t have a lot of other opportunities to drive himself to think about to write, and what to draw and paint. Through this competition, you push yourself harder and strengthen yourself.”
The PTA Council’s Chant echoed his thoughts, speaking about the crucial existence of the program, which has seen more than 10 million student participants since its inception in 1969.
“I think it’s really great for us to encourage the arts — because it’s so important in our culture, and they don’t get a lot of time to be creative,” Chant said. “I think it’s really important for all of us to nurture that. I also think it’s a great way for kids to be recognized for something other than academics. This ties in with their academics, and enhances their academic experience. It’s something different. They get to be creative and think for themselves. It’s also self-motivated, and I think it’s great for the kids to motivate themselves.”
Michael Bruer is a freelance writer.