Sara Jablonska struggled to learn English after she and her family moved to Lindenhurst from Poland two years ago, but she used art to express herself until she became fluent in the language.
But at the time, the 12-year-old never imagined one of her drawings — a colorful electric guitar with lines of music notes shooting out from its body — would be chosen out of 10,000 fifth-grade entries in a national contest.
The fifth-grader at Daniel Street Elementary School in Lindenhurst was notified on Dec. 31 that she won P.S. from Aéropostale’s “P.S. What Makes You Smile” national T-shirt design contest, which awarded her a $500 gift card to the store and her school $5,000.
“When my art teacher told me I had won, I was in shock,” Jablonska said after an award ceremony at the school Wednesday in front of her fifth-grade class. “I couldn’t believe that something I made would actually win, but I’m so happy.
Jablonska said she spent hours thinking of a design to put on a T-shirt-shaped poster and finally drew inspiration from her acoustic guitar collecting dust in a corner of her room. The colored pencil drawing took her an hour to finish.
“I’ve loved to draw since I was a little girl,”said Jablonska, who enrolled at Daniel Street Elementary School last year after improving in English. “I just can’t believe my design won.”
The contest, sponsored by the children’s clothing sister-store of Aéropostale, ran during the month of October and encouraged students from grades 1-5 to pick up a paint brush, crayon or pencil and design an 8-by-12 inch T-shirt-shaped poster board with a picture of what makes them smile.
Jablonska was among the 46,000 elementary school students from 566 schools across the country to showcase their artistic talents. From there, 100 finalists were chosen and a winner from each grade was selected and sent their design printed on 50 T-shirts.
Jablonska was among the five final winners notified at the end of December. She was the only student from New York State to win.
Suzan Marino, store manager at the P.S. from Aéropostale at Sunrise Mall in Massapequa, said the contest is meant to encourage kids to express their creativity.
“The company wants to help revive art programs,” said Marino, who was among the company’s representatives at the assembly. “And it’s always interesting to see the designs they come up with.”
Jablonska’s art teacher, Alyssa Gilman, said 250 students from the school in grades 3-5 participated and it was the first year a student from the school won the contest.
”Sara is an example of someone who gave her best effort and was rewarded for it,” said Gilman, who plans to use some of the awarded money to purchase a smartboard to use in art classes. “We are so proud of her and I hope she continues to pursue art.”
For more information on the contest, visit pswhatmakesyousmile.com.