Anna Levin has never considered art her strength.
So, when the Harper's Choice Middle School pupil was named one of five winners of the Images of Freedom art contest as part of Black History Month, she was thrilled.
"I was so surprised," said the 13-year-old eighth-grader.
Sponsored by the Columbia Association, Corridor Transportation Corp. and the Howard County Office of Public Information, the contest also celebrates the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 landmark decision that ended school segregation.
The contest was open to county middle and high school students. Their task was to depict images of freedom through drawings.
About 80 pupils, all from Harper's Choice, entered the contest.
Art teacher Maxquesar Jones selected the work of 10 pupils to submit for final judging in the contest, and the association chose five winners whose work appears on Howard Transit buses, which are managed by the CTC.
The pupils worked on their drawings for several weeks during the fall, Jones said.
The other four winners are: Isabel Enerson, Julia Longinotti, Leroy Owusu-Sakyi -- all seventh-graders -- and Lee-Anne Ridgely, an eighth-grader.
The winners' work appears on the following buses: No. 31, passenger side; No. 32, driver side; No. 33, passenger side; No. 58, passenger side; and No. 62, passenger side.
Jones helped inspire her pupils with assignments that involved defining freedom, making collages and viewing a video about Romare Bearden, an acclaimed Harlem Renaissance painter.
"This was a great opportunity to link art and history," she said.
Anna's drawing spells out the words "freedom" and "vote" and has a U.S. flag in the upper-left corner. She has a globe in the scene with a brown hand.
"The first thing I thought about was the red, white and blue [U.S.] flag," she said, explaining her picture. "I wrote 'vote' because so many people had to struggle for that right."
Isabel said she knew she wanted a silhouette of a person to appear in her picture because she is more skilled at that type of drawing.
She said she used the color purple to represent the "dark past" of slavery. A book, dove and sun all represent positive things.
"I was absent when we got the assignment, and I ended up taking it home to finish it," she said. "And after it was done, I thought it looked pretty good."
Julia said she was also surprised when she found out she was one of the winners.
Using red, green and orange, her picture includes the word "freedom" and is peppered with icons representing sports events because it shows that freedom "allows us to do what we want." The words "I have a dream," from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 speech in Washington are included along with buildings representing a community.
Leroy said he was happy to learn that his work would be featured on a county bus. His picture depicts images of Africa, including a lion and a person dressed in African garb. Leroy's work was also inspired by his parents.
"My mom and dad are from Ghana, Africa," he said.
Lee-Anne said, "Freedom is about the [U.S.] flag," and that is why she used several in her picture.
During a luncheon at their school last week, the pupils were honored with certificates and kind words from those involved in the contest.
"This is really exciting. ... What you're doing is a talent, and we're awfully proud of you," said school Principal C. Stephen Wallis.