FORT POLK — The third annual Call for the Arts 2019 winner’s reception was held at Fort Polk’s Army Community Service April 1 from 5-7 p.m. The contest was open to military-connected kindergarten through 12th grade students in Vernon Parish schools.

The top three winners in each category — art, poetry and essay — will be submitted for a district-level contest. Finalist submissions will then be considered in 2020 Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) publications.

Student artwork and poetry are featured at the MCEC annual conference in Washington and artwork is used in the “On The Move” magazine, the annual MCEC calendar and conference program.

Some of the suggested topics included cultures military kids have experienced, pride in parents, military wishes, hopes and dreams and more.

Sue Lopez, military student transition consultant, Vernon Parish School Board, said the contest allows kids an outlet for expression.

“They take what they experience as military children and how they are feeling right now and turn it into art,” she said. “Their creations make them feel confident that their feelings are valid.”

Lopez said participating in the contest looks good on a scholarship application or resume. “It also gives students the opportunity to have their work published,” she said.

Emily Ring, 7, drew a picture and wrote a poem for the contest. Ring’s picture was of her bed.

“I like drawing my bed. It travels with me all around,” she said.

Evelyn Ring, Emily’s mom, said she was proud of the depth of feeling put into the picture and poem her daughter created.

“She decided to enter the contest on her own. She stepped out of her comfort zone to draw and write and that is wonderful,” she said. “We have moved to a lot of places and her artwork has made me realized that her bed is her comfort zone,” she said.

Katherine Brandt, 10, wrote a story for the contest. She said it was about how she handles being an Army kid and overcomes challenges.

Brandt said one of the hardest things for her is making new friends.

“It might take a while, but I’ll make a new friend. Then they will move or I will move, but we try to keep in touch. Then I move to a new place and make another new friend,” she said.

Keri Brandt, Katherine’s mom, said moving is a huge adjustment for military kids.

“Every few years we move to a another house in a new neighborhood and city. Once we get there it’s so important for them to find new friends and people to become their support system,” she said.

Kiani Villenas, 16, and two other students — Aurora Bauer and Demi Bass — read their poems at the ceremony.

Villenas said she has always had trouble talking to people about her feelings, but found it was easier for her to write them down in the form of an essay.

Villenas’s essay, “Where Is Home?” focused on the concept of what home is. As a military child, it’s a thought process she is familiar with. She said in her experience home isn’t just four walls — it’s also having food on the table, clothes to wear, where the heart is and surviving.

“I’ve witnessed other people’s homes. They don’t always feel like they are home,” she said.

This is a small excerpt from “Where Is Home?”

“So where is home for these people? Does it not exist for these souls? Do they wander into homes and still feel the emptiness lurking behind?”

Angel Rodriguez, 16, entered art into the contest. His picture depicted a hollow Soldier saluting a flag and a child holding a shadowed Soldier’s hand.

He said the art has a twofold concept.

“The hollow Soldier, though he seems emotionless, actually feels a great deal for his country and Family,” he said. Rodriguez then explained what that the child and shadowed parent in uniform represented.

“It expresses the idea that when their Soldiers are gone — deployed or training — they are still in our hearts, but when they are home, sometimes they are still gone,” he said.