Awasthi, Dacio earn PTA Awards of Merit for filmmaking

One hundred and fourty pairs of eyes studied the image that was projected onto the screen at the Student and Staff Recognition event, Jan. 31.

It was a painting, peacefully portraying a woman, subtle smile and eyes closed, her hair one with the clouds and melting into outer space.

The painting, “Beyond a Wish Upon a Star,” was passionately put together, brush stroke by brush stroke, by Rhiannon Harkey (10) and submitted to the PTA Reflections Art Program.

For the 2017/2018 Reflections Program, students were tasked with creating and submitting an art piece that fit the theme, “Within Reach.” Nineteen students from Westview brought this prompt to life with their art.

Whether it was dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography, or visual arts, the students used their creativity to capture what “Within Reach” meant to them.

All 19 students who submitted pieces received Awards of Excellence at Westview and moved onto the next level of judging, the Palomar Council.

Four students from Westview, with diverse submissions from visual arts to choreography, advanced beyond the Palomar Council level to the 9th District. These students, Rohin Awasthi (10), Seth Dacio (12), Emmanuel Jed Narvaez (10), and Rhiannon Harkey (10), received varying awards at that level, and were recognized at the Student and Staff Recognition event along with the other students who submitted to the program.

While her painting was projected on the screen at the event, Harkey was invited to stand. It was her first time making it as far as the ninth district in the competition, and she received a Certificate of Recognition at that level.

Harkey said she was inspired by the first African-American woman who flew to outer space, Mae Jemison, and said she felt that a painting influenced by Jemison would depict the essence of everything being “within reach.”

“I really thought about people who are the first to accomplish things and I was really inspired by her,” Harkey said. “I already had the idea of [someone with their] head in the clouds, and my painting shows a girl [inspired by Mae Jemison] with her hair like the sky turning into space.”

Standing at the ceremony, Harkey said she was glad that not only was her painting displayed, but  her artist’s statement was also read aloud.

“It felt good to know that people knew that my art has a lot more meaning than just a nice painting to look at,” she said.

Harkey’s art piece wasn’t the only one that had a greater meaning to it.

Narvaez said he captured a story within his art piece. He submitted a video of himself performing his original dance choreography entitled “A Light Within Reach,” a story about difficulty and ways to overcome it.

“The choreography depicts a story where everything is going wrong with a kid’s day and how he gets over it,” Narvaez said. “In the story he gets through it and lets go through dance.”

Narvaez’s art was personal to him. As a dancer himself, he said he relieves his stress through dance and the creative expression that goes along with it. He said he hopes his piece connects with other students.

“[My piece] is about someone’s emotions and how there’s always something within reach to help people get over those tough times.”

Narvaez’s piece received an Honorable Mention award.

“It was really surreal to find out that I made it so far,” he said. “I’m not used to going past the basic school level but I’m glad that I did it and now I hope that next year and the year after I can work even harder on my project and go ever further.”

Harkey said she felt a similar motivation after this year’s awards.

“[Getting the award] was really surprising to me, but it was really nice,” she said. “It made me feel like people actually do appreciate what I do and it made me want to push even harder for this coming year because I would like to get an even higher award.”

Also receiving recognition at the ceremony was Awasthi. While the artist’s statement for his short film, “My Year: 2017,” was being read, he said he was nervous, standing anxiously in front of his seat while 140 pairs of ears were listening.

“I felt like people might judge me while my piece was being presented,” Awasthi said. “It was my first time ever presenting my art.”

But, he found that he felt nothing but pride during the ceremony.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’ve never gotten an award for my film before so it felt really good to see that something I made is being appreciated. It was really cool to be recognized.”

Awasthi said that presenting his art also allowed for him to show his creative side to his teachers.

“I remember my AP Bio teacher was there and it was really cool for a teacher to see what I do outside of school,” he said. “It helps you build a more personal relationship with your teachers and get closer with them.”

Awasthi created his film, an artistic compilation of videos from his travels throughout 2017 that received an Award of Merit at the ninth district, as a reminder to himself that his own dreams are able to be attained.

“My whole goal [in life] is to travel the world,” he said. “I got a taste of that because this summer I was able to go to Hawaii and I got the chance to explore a lot of La Jolla and Torrey Pines. The travel video served as a reminder that my goal is within my reach.”

For Awasthi, film is an outlet for creativity, discovery, relief.

Dacio also found a passion for filmmaking and created the film that received an Award of Merit at the ninth district, “Persistence, Commitment, and Motivation” to portray what he believes to be the “three key concepts to bring yourself within reach of your goals.”

Like a lot of the other students, Dacio explored his passion through opportunities to create art.

He said that with every year he hopes to create something better than the last and that participating in the program throughout the years has inspired him to pursue filmmaking outside of Reflections and work toward a career in the film industry.

For these four students and the others that participated in the program, creating art provided an outlet for stress and a place for their passions to grow. In the 2017/2018 competition, achievement was “within reach.”