The dark days of this past year have catalyzed the creativity of some Long Beach youngsters.
Even though schools were closed, Long Beach students submitted a plethora of entries to “Reflections,” an annual art contest hosted by the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The competition is open to pupils from pre-K to 12th grade, with awards offered in six different categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography and Literature.
The 2020-2021 theme, “I Matter Because,” gave students a chance to examine themselves and their unusual surroundings. Three Long Beach Unified School District students had great success with their personal interpretations of the topic.
Julian Purcell, a fourth grader at Naples Bayside Academy, advanced three levels to the California State PTA Contest and was awarded second Place/Award of Merit in the Dance Choreography category. Ryann Chalmers, an 11th grader at Polytechnic High, and Nava Tate, a sixth grader at Hughes Middle School, both reached the PTA 33rd District level of the competition. Ryann competed in Film Production and Nava competed in Photography.
COVID-19 was a central theme of Ryann’s short film, “Teen Isolation.” www.gazettes.com/go/isolation Ryann said that despite having a good family and a good support system, the pandemic made her feel like life was on pause; she was lonely and burnt out. Luckily, she said, the contest inspired her and drove her to experiment with film. Enlisting two friends as actors, she worked to present a glimpse of joy. Ryann said her goal was to remind people to stay hopeful.
The voiceovers are Ryann’s favorite part of the film. Recorded from a Student Council discussion about COVID, the audio clips show students’ different perspectives.
“Everyone has different opinions and feelings about the pandemic,” she said, “but we are all in this together.”
Nava Tate also was influenced by 2020 events. As marchers around the nation gathered to highlight the importance of Black lives, the sixth grader decided to take a self-portrait to celebrate her Black heritage.
“I wanted to show how proud I am of my hair and inspire everyone to be proud of themselves and their hair,” Nava said. “It is my crown and my glory that expresses exactly who I am and exactly where I come from.”
“This contest was a great outlet for her,” said Nava’s mother, Naomie Worrell-Tate. “With everything that was happening, it gave her a way to express herself.”
Like Nava, Julian also saw the contest as a chance to speak through art. With his mom behind the camera and “This Is Me” playing in the background, the 9-year-old danced across a stretch of sidewalk by the Belmont Plaza Pool. He created and performed his artistic roller skate number, “Be Yourself,” to showcase the fact that inner happiness is more important than conformity. www.gazettes.com/go/beyourself
“Skating is more of a girls sport, but I don’t care,” Julian said. “I just love listening to music and following the beat with my skates.”
When his submission placed second in the state, he said he felt great inside.
“My reaction was awesome, awesome, and awesome!” Julian said.