Who is a hero? Ask La Cañada Unified School District students, and you’ll get a wide range of answers.
For Palm Crest Elementary sixth-grader Sophia Luu, it’s mom Verna Leung, who’s always there for her and does things for her when she needs help.
For Paradise Canyon third-grader Ajit Sampath, it’s garbage men who work hard in formidable conditions to keep homes neat and tidy.
For PCY kindergartener Aiden Dalvi, it’s the firefighters who helped put out the 2017 La Tuna fire that threatened his grandparents’ home in Montrose.
Luu, Sampath and Dalvi expressed appreciation for their individual heroes by participating in this year’s Reflections Art Program, an annual contest held by the National PTA that asks students to reflect upon and interpret a theme through writing, film, photography, visual arts, music and dance.
This year’s “Heroes Around Me” inspired 159 district students in grades K-12 to submit art entries for school-site competitions. From those, the La Cañada PTA Council selected 61 winners, who went on to compete at the regional District level.
District winners (LCUSD had 11 this year, including Luu for dance and Sampath for literature) will move onto the California State PTA contest and have a chance of making it to the national level.
In an awards ceremony Tuesday night organized by Reflections Chair Dorothy Chen, La Cañada PTA Council members celebrated this year’s crop of talent.
“The Reflections program requires more than artistic talent,” said mom Billie Melillo, who takes over as event chair next year. “It requires you to consider the theme, think creatively and interpret what it means to you.”
Sampath said he’s always been fascinated by garbage trucks, so he was excited when his mother, Nan, took him to a transfer station. There, he interviewed a worker, Mr. Quactooalis, who became the subject of Sampath’s essay “Unsung Heroes,” which earned him a first place trophy in the intermediate level literature category.
“I actually met the garbage man and did an interview,” the third-grader said. “They have to work really hard, driving back to the dump. It takes two hours.”
Dalvi was motivated to enter the contest when he remembered how relieved he was when firefighters helped save his grandparents’ house from a fire.
“We were living right by the mountain and learned we had to evacuate. Then the next time I looked, I was like, ‘Firefighters are putting out the fire!’ Then I was, ‘Phew!’” he recalled.
The song “Never Know,” featuring vocals and drums by the 6-year-old student, gave Dalvi a chance to thank his newfound heroes directly.