Seventh-grader Aaliyah Surujmohan from Randall Middle School holding her Reflections Art Program Award of Merit in Literature certificate.

More than 300,000 students every year in pre-K through grade 12 across the country and in United States schools overseas got an opportunity to participate in the National PTA Reflections program, which became established in 1969.

The program encourages students to develop and submit original pieces of art in the medium of their choice that reflects the annual theme. This year’s theme was ‘I Matter Because…’, and the categories included Visual Arts, Music Composition, Literature, Photography, Film Production, Special Artist and Dance Choreography.

More than 200 students on the national level were recognized with Awards of Excellence and Merit. A total of seven students got honored with the Outstanding Interpretation Award. Seventh-grader Aaliyah Surujmohan, PTSA writer at Randall Middle School in Lithia, received a Reflections Art Program Award of Merit in Literature from the National Parent Teacher Association for her poem called Who am I? With Aaliyah’s Award of Merit, she received a bronze medal, Certificate of Merit and her work will be featured in the traveling exhibit.

Aaliyah shared how she felt about receiving national recognition and this award.

“To know that my poem had made it this far for just being truthful and thoughtful felt great,” Aaliyah said.

She considers writing a passion of hers, which would be what sparked Aaliyah’s interest to enter into this specific category. In fact, Aaliyah began her poetry journey in the fifth grade. Her mom, Aneesah Surujmohan, and fifth-grade teacher had a huge influence on Aaliyah. As an avid reader, Aaliyah always turned to nonfiction books as a kid too, which would be another reason as to why she chose to participate.

“As a parent, I am proud of Aaliyah and blown away of how she learned to write poetry,” Aneesah said.

“For more than 50 years, the National PTA Reflections program has provided opportunities for millions of students to access the arts and gain recognition, which boosts student confidence and success in and out of the classroom,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA executive director.

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Tatiana Ortiz is a freelance writer with the Osprey Observer Newspaper. She began as an intern here in 2010 and has been writing since. Tatiana graduated from the University of South Florida in 2015. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. In her free time, Tatiana enjoys photography, biking and being with her family.