Eight Centennial High School students won recognition from the Howard County PTA Council for their entries in this year's Reflections contest. The theme was "Signs of Courage."
The national PTA-sponsored program asks students to interpret a topic or phrase in writing, visual arts, photography, music or dance. Of the 18 Centennial students who submitted entries, 11 advanced to compete at the county level, said Centennial PTSA President Angela Fowler-Young.
Winners in literature were Erika Carlson, Shuai Shao and Ilana Kowarski. Winners in visual arts were Laura Hung, Riana duToit and Anna Turner. Tori Dettmer won for photography and Grace Yeh for musical composition.
Unsettled times and the shadow of Sept. 11 colored some of the entries.
"You did get a fair number of your firefighters -- things that came out of 9/11 -- but a lot of the literature was about the immigrant experience and some just everyday things: making friends, making do with what life hands you," said Centennial parent Anne Talvacchio, this year's Reflections chairwoman.
Anna Turner painted the face of a young girl surrounded by the words, "Courage is Remembering the Sadness of the World in the Face of Happiness."
"Because war seems to be such a major issue right now, I wanted to show that the soldiers aren't the only courageous ones," wrote Sooyoung Uhm, whose entry was titled, "The Love of My Life."
Ilana Kowarsky wrote about her grandmother's struggle with cancer and her flight from the Holocaust: "This cancer, it was one of many wars my grandmother lived through, only this time, my grandmother lost. She wanted so much to live. I only wish she could be with us today. One thing that I think would make her happy is that my baby cousin is named after her. The best that we can hope for her is that my grandmother's legacy lives on within her, a fighting spirit determined to survive."
"In real life, courage is hardly ever commended," wrote Erika Carlson in the final line of her poem. And Jenny Chen wrote in the artist's statement for her entry, "I realized how thankful I am to have such a wonderful family and to have met so many people."
The winning entries have been sent on to compete at the state level.