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Friday, May 27, 2011

Whiz Kid: Natalie Steele

Whiz Kid: Natalie Steele
National PTA Reflections 
Award of Excellence winner
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 5/27)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – To her mother’s recollection, the slender, energetic 8-year-old had been writing as long she could form letters, and was always singing. She put those passions together to compose music and recently received national recognition for her efforts.

When she’s not playing the piano, Natalie Steele, a North Stratfield Elementary School second grader, is writing and singing songs. “I’m writing two songs right now,” she said, in a recent sit-down along with mom Tina. “One is called ‘Gentle Hand and a Friend’; the other is ‘I Can Fly.’ I get a tune in my head and then start thinking of words. I write all my songs down now in a composition book. I used to write them on scraps of paper until my mom got me the book to help keep me organized.”

Natalie figures she has written ten full songs, though says, “I’ve got lots more in my head. Some become poems.”

Back in November, there was a call for entries through the school’s PTA for submissions to the Reflections Program, which is a National PTA-sponsored opportunity for students to express themselves and receive positive recognition for their artistic efforts. The theme for the 2010-11 school year was “Together We Can.”

“Natalie had participated in the Reflections Program each year since kindergarten, first in visual arts then in literature,” said Tina. “She didn’t get recognized for her work but decided to keep trying. So this past January, she entered again, in the musical composition category.”

Natalie entered a song titled “Together Is Where We Need to Be.” About its subject matter, Natalie said, “The beginning related to problems like crime, cancer, starvation and pollution – things that made me sad. The second part was about things that people can do together to make the world better.”

Over 50 kids from the school submitted work and Natalie’s piece was selected among others to be forwarded to the Connecticut State PTA. “She won first place at the state level in her age group and in the music composition category,” said Tina. “Then the state submitted her piece to the National PTA and she was subsequently one of six students in all of Connecticut honored at the national level. Of those six, she was the only one at the primary level (pre-school through second grade). She was also only one of three students across the country to win the National PTA’s Award of Excellence in Music Composition at the primary level.”

Natalie’s feat was quite the achievement given that there were over 500,000 entries nationally from ages pre-school to 12th grade.

Tina recalled the moment the family was notified. “We received a phone call from our PTA President Karen Lynch, who told us the news and that Natalie will be receiving a $200 cash award, silver-plated Reflections Medallion and a certificate and letter signed by the National PTA president,” she said. “She’s also going to be recognized in the annual PTA Reflections online gallery.”

“I started crying,” said Tina, in reaction to the news. “The chances were so slim for her to win. I was overwhelmed and so proud.”

As for Natalie, “I screamed at the top of my lungs and jumped around and couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I said to my mom that night, when I was going to bed, ‘I’m so proud of me.’”

Natalie said she would probably continue writing songs, singing them and entering the Reflections contest. “What if I won next time?” she wondered aloud. “That would be cool!”

“Together Is Where We Need To Be” by Natalie Steele

Crimes and cancer, people starving, pollution, oil spills, lots of suffering, and war.

But, together, is where we need to be.
And when we are, that’s where the love will be.
We can work together every day and in our own special ways,
and when we do,
we’ll bring peace to our earth.

I could help someone learn to read.
She could help a girl tie her shoes.
He could donate money, food and clothes.
We could all help each other,
and when we do,
we’ll bring peace to our earth.

Together, is where we need to be.
And when we are, that’s where the love will be.
We can work together every day and in our own special ways,
and when we do,
we’ll bring peace to our earth.

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