Have you noticed local cop cars emblazoned with anti-drug artwork? It’s all thanks to a partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and talented middle schoolers to celebrate Red Ribbon Week.
Kira Wyatt’s drawing skills and powerful message recently earned her the grand prize in an anti-drug art competition this school year, and you might see her winning work as you drive around town. The Millennium Middle School eighth grader won the top award in the 2017 Drug-Free Red Ribbon Art Contest run by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
Kira, who lives in Sanford, says she knows kids who have turned to drugs as a way of dealing with – or escaping from – family problems.
“I’m all for finding your own way to cope, except for drugs,” the 14-year-old says. “That’s one of the worst possible ways to cope with what’s going on at home.”
Kira’s drawing features opposing images of two young girls. One girl, whose image is right-side-up, is about to embark on a promising future. The other girl, whose image is upside-down, has been destroyed by drugs.
“My message basically was don’t turn your world upside-down with drugs, even if it’s already turned upside-down,” Kira says. “Don’t make it even worse.”
The annual competition is open to fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students who attend public, private, charter, or home schools in Seminole County. In all, 39 schools submitted 151 posters that illustrated the importance of healthy, drug-free living.
Judges selected 37 winning pieces of art, which have been reproduced on school resource deputies’ patrol cars. The art will remain on the cars’ back windows at least until the end of the school year and perhaps longer.
Student winners by school:
All Souls Catholic School- Alyssa Kornegay, Davian Hernandez, and Sophie Kowalewsk
Bentley Elementary- Aisha Miyanji and Piper Schofield
Galileo School- April Anderson
Greenwood Lakes Middle- Rebecca DeSanto and Yara Kiswani
Holy Cross Lutheran Academy- Annalycee Ruhling, Emily Johnson, Ryzon Owen, and Sophia Hutto
Indian Trails Middle- Caroline Carr, Jade Boozer, and Mallory Persons
Keeth Elementary- Monica Kamel
Markham Woods Middle- Lara Case
Millennium Middle- Cassandra Ehleringer, Kira Wyatt, and Zahra Miyanji
Milwee Middle- Jaycelyn Reese
Red Bug Elementary- Tiana Howard
Rock Lake Middle-
Sabal Point Elementary- Jordan Clements
Sanford Middle- Elizabeth Haines, Marina Blancovitch, Prabhal Kandala, and Sawyer Adams
Spring Lake Elementary- Joshua Ibrahim
Sterling Park Elementary- Amy Truong
Teague Middle- Cree Drescher, Emily Longmire, Jenamarie Blevins, Mariana Ruiz, Rebeca Silva, and Rebecca MacArthur
Wilson Elementary- Olivia Casservik
Kira Wyatt was chosen as grand prize winner, and the top three entries per grade were:
First place Aisha Miyanji, Bentley Elementary
Second place Amy Truong, Sterling Park Elementary
Third place Tiana Howard, Red Bug Elementary
First place Elizabeth Haines, Sanford Middle
Second place Davian Hernandez, All Souls Catholic School
Third place Marina Blancovitch, Sanford Mid
First place Sawyer Adams, Sanford Middle
Second place Yara Kiswani, Greenwood Lakes Middle
Third place Sophia Hutto, Holy Cross Lutheran Academy
First place Rebecca DeSanto, Greenwood Lakes Middle
Second place Caroline Carr, Indian Trails Middle
Third place Jaycelyn Reese, Milwee Middle
Kira’s drawing was selected as the best out of all the entries, which came as quite a shock to the budding young artist. Winners were announced and the patrol cars were unveiled at a ceremony in January at Winter Springs High School.
As the grand prize winner, Kira’s artwork was featured on a digital billboard at the corner of U.S. Highway 17-92 and State Road 434 for a month. She also received a certificate, gift card, and mini-billboard to commemorate the honor.
“It was kind of one of those surreal dreams that you don’t want to wake up from, and then you wake up, and you’re like, ‘Dang it,’” Kira says. “But that’s the thing – I didn’t wake up.”
Art has been Kira’s favorite subject since she was a student at Wicklow Elementary School. Her go-to mediums include markers, gel pens, and colored pencils.
“I really, really like art,” says Kira, who would love to become a professional cartoonist. “I like how you can create something so cool and colorful and very stylistic with just a few materials.”
The teen’s biggest source of inspiration comes from her mom.
“My mother adores my art, and she shows it off to other people,” Kira says. “She gives me so much positive reinforcement about my drawings that it keeps me going.”
The student art contest is tied to Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention campaign.
At the awards ceremony, art teacher Vikki Cole of Teague Middle was recognized for having the most student winners from one school. Six of her pupils received awards for their posters. Vikki says the Red Ribbon contest is one of the few competitions available to middle-school students. It gives them a much-appreciated opportunity to be recognized for their creative ideas, art skills, and hard work.
“Drugs are all around our students,” says Vikki. “Working on the Red Ribbon campaign and posters gives my students a platform to voice reasons as to why the drugs that they are tempted by are not a good choice.”
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