The National PTA's mission is to ensure that all children receive quality education, including arts education. The PTA encourages children to pursue their own artistic means of expression by participating in its Reflections Program, a program that has been in place for 40 years. Students from preschool age through 12th grade are encouraged to submit artistic works in six basic areas―literature, film production, musical composition, choreography, photography, and visual arts (drawing, collage, painting, printmaking, etc.).
The Reflections Program was started in 1969 by Mary Lou Anderson, the president of the Colorado PTA. The program is run and supervised by volunteer parents, which gives them an opportunity to become involved in their children's lives and artistic education. By participating in the program, children are able to experience different forms of artistic expression. When they learn how to express themselves through various types of art media―words, pictures, dance, music, etc.―they not only grow stronger intellectually, they also become more aware of their thoughts and feelings. Any local PTA in good standing can sponsor a Reflections Program.
Children participating in the program create and submit works of art. The National PTA organization presents eighteen Awards of Excellence within each area of the program, and up to five Awards of Merit are given out within each grade division. Recipients of the Award of Excellence are given a cash award of $200 plus a silver-plated medallion. Recipients of an Award of Merit are given a silver-plated medallion. Other gifts and awards may be contributed by sponsors.
From the group of children receiving Awards of Excellence, there are six students chosen to receive Outstanding Interpretation Awards. These awards recognize the strongest creative interpretation related to the program's theme within each of the areas of artistic expression, across all grade levels. The recipients of Outstanding Interpretation Awards are given a gold-plated medallion, an expense-paid trip to the National PTA Convention, an $800 award for arts education from the National PTA, and other sponsor-donated gifts.
The program works with parents to help recognize and support their children's eagerness to discover and develop their own artistic skills. When children are encouraged and supported through arts education, their discovery of their creative interests and abilities helps lead them to seek other journeys of self-discovery.